Ryan Kelly, An Unlikely Bright Spot in the Lakers’ Dismal Season

During such a dismal season, the Los Angeles Lakers are having to search for silver linings.

But Ryan Kelly is just that—a player who at the beginning of the season was questionable to even make the team, let alone make a difference. Yet, here he is—an unheralded rookie playing significant minutes and fitting right into an uptempo, floor-spacing system.

According to coach Mike D’Antoni after a tough loss to the Chicago Bulls (per postgame footage from Lakers Nation):

“He plays well, he’s smart. He does the things that we need, he opens the floor up and gives us a chance.”

The 6’11” forward had a career-high 26 points earlier this month in a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers and started in six of the Lakers' first eight games this month. It’s not all wine and roses, however—Kelly played just 12 minutes during a win against the Boston Celtics on Friday night and didn't make an appearance in Sunday's loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

What changed? It’s all part of the continually shifting circumstances that have defined this Lakers season. Pau Gasol is back after missing several games with a strained groin; Nick Young has also returned from injury, and Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks are getting extended looks since arriving from the Golden State Warriors for guard Steve Blake. The chain of changes led D’Antoni to move Wesley Johnson from the wing to the stretch 4 thus bumping Kelly out of his normal slot.

Are we all clear on the Lakers game of musical chairs?

As Dave McMenamin for ESPN Los Angeles points out, a seemingly minor deadline deal has the rest of the Lakers feeling out of whack. After the 29th different starting lineup and the loss on Sunday, Gasol summed up the situation: "We'll see how it goes for the next [26] games that we have left. The coach decides to rotate these guys ...

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