Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black had a difficult 2015-2016 season, spending much of it in then-coach Byron Scott‘s doghouse despite advanced stats suggesting that he was actually the team’s best option in the middle. Fortunately, a lot can change in a year. Black was a free agent this past summer, but he decided to come back to Los Angeles after new coach Luke Walton promised him a fair shot.
Black had already established a relationship with Walton from his college days at Memphis, where Walton briefly acted as an assistant coach and decided to sign a two-year deal worth nearly $13 million, which seemed like a lot for a reserve center who only appeared in 39 games the prior season. The Lakers didn’t agree with Scott’s assessment, and while one preseason game is a tiny sample size, for the time being, it looks as though they made the right call.
Black helped lead the Lakers to a comeback win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, scoring 15 points and hitting finishing a perfect five-for-five from the field. After the game, Black spoke to Inside So Cal’s Mark Medina about his perseverance:
“I’ve always had faith in myself and knew I could play, even when I did get opportunities last season, I did positive things. I just didn’t have the opportunities.”
To his credit, Black never stopped working hard, even when times were tough last season. He sees himself as a leader and has tremendous confidence in his own abilities, which is nearly a must in professional sports. Walton expressed appreciation for Black’s perseverance after the game:
“He’s coachable asks for advice and goes out and does what you tell him to do. He’s been diligent about getting in there and working. It was nice to see him when the game came around to have a night like that.”
It’s still early in the year, and Black still much fend off challenges from Ivica Zubac and Yi Jianlian for the backup center minutes. It’s also possible that Walton will opt to play more small ball, with Larry Nance Jr. or Julius Randle sliding over to center, which would cut into Black’s minutes. However, if Black continues to play like he did against the Kings it will be extremely difficult for Walton to keep him off the court.
After a difficult season last year, it would only be fitting for Black to have a breakout season. Hard work, after all, pays off.