At the Lakers' introduction of first-round draft choice Eddie Jones, signed Tuesday to a six-year contract worth $13.5 million, Jones was asked if he held any grudge against former college opponent and new Laker teammate Nick Van Exel.
The two squared off when Jones was at Temple, Van Exel at Cincinnati.
"Oh, no, he's my teammate now," said Jones, Atlantic 10 player of the year as a senior. "I've got to love him. I'm going to be encouraging him to take more shots."
Laker Vice President Jerry West interrupted to say: "You better hope he passes more. You're the one who is supposed to be the shooter."
It was a quick exchange, but could be indicative of the Lakers' plan for the 6-foot-6, 190-pound shooting guard.
Eyebrows were raised when the Lakers, already deep with shooting guards, drafted Jones 10th.
Doug Christie, Sedale Threatt, Anthony Peeler and Tony Smith have started at that position in the last two years.
"He's going to play," West said. "There was not a better athlete in the draft."
According to West, the Lakers will continue to listen to trade offers for any of their guards. His confidence in Jones came in response to doubts, expressed Tuesday by Jones himself, that the guard can readily adjust to the NBA's man-to-man defense after playing in the regimented zone defense of Temple Coach John Chaney.
"That's something I have to work on," Jones said. "Temple had a great system and I enjoyed it, but we played mostly zone with Coach Chaney. Well, 100% zone."
"They play a matchup zone," West said. "We actually think his defense is one of his pluses."
Jones said he is working with weights to reach a playing weight close to 200.
"I'm strong for my size," he added. "(The Atlantic 10) is a physical league. You get scratched and pushed and everything else."
Jones' contract is for slightly less than previously reported.