Lakers rookie Ryan Kelly had a pretty big dunk in the second quarter of the Lakers’ win over the Boston Celtics on Friday night. What was so big about it? Well, mostly that we haven’t seen Kelly dunk like that before, despite him being a 6’11” power forward.
Kelly sustained a foot injury during his junior season at Duke and underwent multiple foot procedures, including one over the summer to repair a screw that had been inserted during his initial surgery. Additionally, during his senior season, according to Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni, Kelly was only playing in games, and not practicing during his last year at Duke. Couple that with Kelly undergoing another procedure in the off-season and Kelly missed plenty of valuable training time.
So what was it that finally allowed Kelly to showcase his talent, knocking down a career-high 20 points against the Celtics, quieting the uproar over Rajon Rondo’s Friday night debut?
“I guess I’m just getting my legs back,” Ryan Kelly smiled after Lakers practice on Saturday. “I haven’t done that (dunked) in awhile. It’s probably been high school since I jumped off one like that off the dribble. I didn’t do that much in college either.”
The Lakers’ locker room was excited for the young rookie after the win, and Mike D’Antoni was impressed by his performance. So much so that Kelly is expected to replace Jordan Hill in the starting line-up for the Lakers’ matchup against the Raptors on Sunday. After a career-high 20 points in an extremely productive 34 minutes, D’Antoni’s hoping to capitalize on Kelly’s ability to spread the floor by knocking down outside shots.
Kelly was known in college for his ability to hit from behind the arc, but has never been known for his vertical.
“I have the reputation I’m not the highest leaper…wrongfully!” Kelly laughed, hoping Friday night’s dunk is the start of changing that reputation.
We’ll see if the rookie can impress onlookers in Sunday’s starting debut in Toronto.
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