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Ryan Kelly hoping he'll get a chance to prove himself

September 30, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Ryan Kelly, who is 6-foot-11, averaged 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds for Duke last season.
Ryan Kelly, who is 6-foot-11, averaged 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds for… (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images )

When the Lakers drafted Ryan Kelly with the 48th pick in the 2013 NBA draft, they knew the 6-foot-11 forward was still recovering from a foot injury.

Despite undergoing surgery in April, Kelly still isn't quite read to participate in the team's training camp, which kicked off on Saturday.

"I've been medically cleared by the doctors," Kelly said. "Now we're just taking our time, obviously because I haven't been able to run fully for a while now."

Ryan is running on the Lakers' Alter-G treadmill, which helps support a percentage of his body weight.

"We're at 90% today," said Kelly on Saturday, running on all but 10% of his 230 pounds. "You've got to get to 100% before you're running on the court."

The challenge for Kelly, whose contract is not guaranteed, is getting the opportunity to prove himself before the Lakers are forced to trim the roster from 19 players to no more than 15.

"I can only do what I can do. I'm listening to the training staff and when I'm ready to go, I'm going to give my all," he said. "There's a reason the Lakers drafted me. They saw what they saw in me.  I have the opportunity to show that a little bit. I think I have a very good chance."

It's a frustrating situation for the former Duke Blue Devil, who may lose a spot to a forward like Elias Harris, Shawne Williams or Marcus Landry. Kelly's a unique player with great size along with a true outside touch.

"I wanted to be in a position where I was in the best shape of my life going into training camp. God dealt me a little bit of a different hand, I understand that," he said. "I'm going to make the best of my situation."

The recovery process has taken far longer than Kelly hoped.

"I started at about 70% and I've just been working up 2% every day," he said. "Now I've been medically cleared. I have no pain and no problems, it's just getting your body to a point when you haven't run in months, you've got to get into shape."

His schedule should see him running on 100% of his body weight on Thursday. Once he proves that he has no ill effects from the added workload, Kelly can finally start getting back to basketball -- although it may still be some time before he's cleared for contact.

"Then I'll be starting to run on the court and see where it goes from there," said Kelly. "I mean, I don't know. It's still a day by day thing."

The difficult part is the running clock with the Lakers starting the season on Oct. 29.

Unless the Lakers are willing to keep him on the roster with his Duke resume trumping the efforts of others in camp and preseason games, Kelly may find his time with the team short-lived.

"I understand why the Lakers would take it slow and be careful with a foot so I'm going to listening to whatever they say," he said.

The Lakers have 11 players with guaranteed contracts.

Harris and Williams both have $100,000 of their contracts guaranteed, which suggests they're more likely than not to make it to opening night. Camp invites Eric Boateng, Dan Gadzuric and Darius Johnson-Odom are long shots.

If the Lakers take a full 15-man roster to the regular season, and Harris/Williams stick, that would leave just two spots. It could come down to Xavier Henry, Landry and Kelly fighting to be 15.

The question for Kelly: Will he get back in time to make a preseason appearance?

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Pau Gasol limited at start of Lakers training camp, but he's healthy

Lakers' point guards could help fill in for recovering Kobe Bryant

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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