Thomas Bryant’s return to the Los Angeles Lakers has been well received so far. Bryant offers an option to stretch the floor and open the court for the Lakers’ Big 3 — LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers were competing with the Boston Celtics, and other contending teams, in signing Bryant. The Toronto Raptors were also intrigued by the big man, but he ultimately signed with the Purple and Gold on what is believed to be a veteran’s minimum deal.
Bryant played in 27 games last season, averaging 7.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game coming off a torn ACL. Bryant said his knee is feeling great though, silencing worries about his health. Prior to last year, he shot over 40% from beyond the arc, which is a huge boost for the Lakers who are in need of shooting.
Bryant’s position on the team isn’t solidified yet. He’ll likely have to compete with Damian Jones for the starting spot. But, Bryant believes his play will complement the Lakers.
“The expectation of role is that I’m not expecting anything. I’m not going anywhere expecting to have a starting role or doing this or doing that. I feel like my game can really help a lot of teams like the Lakers, which I’m really, really happy about,” Bryant said. “To be able to play alongside Russell Westbrook and LeBron James and Anthony Davis, you got three players that are Hall of Famers, so to be able to just do that and be a part of that and learn from those guys, it’s gonna be amazing.”
It’s not just a Lakers reunion for Bryant this season — he played seven games with Westbrook in the former MVP’s lone season with the Washington Wizards.
The two didn’t have enough time to develop proper chemistry, but they still produced. Bryant’s strong 3-point shooting fits Westbrook’s slashing. Bryant averaged 15.6 points and 6.7 rebounds on 44% shooting from three during that span. Westbrook averaged 19.3 points, 11.3 assists and 9.7 rebounds.
While he played limited time in his first stint with the Lakers, Bryant started 108 of 155 possible games in Washington. However, most of those starts came in his first year with the Wizards. Last season he started just nine games out of 27.
Finding a team in free agency that could offer him a prominent role was key for the big man.
“It was really a big impact because I feel like I haven’t played a lot in the last year,” Bryant said. “So looking forward to the future, I wanted to be somewhere where I knew I had the opportunity to play basketball, whether it be starting or off the bench, either way, I just wanted that opportunity to go out there and show what I can do.”
The opportunity awaits for Bryant to excel in his second go-round with the Lakers, a return he called “surreal.”
Lonnie Walker IV focused on being a high-level defender
The Lakers had a tough decision to make with their taxpayer mid-level exception. It was the most valuable contract they could give out and Lonnie Walker IV became the recipient on a one-year deal.
Walker averaged 12.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists last season with the San Antonio Spurs. He provides explosive athleticism but said he is focused on becoming a high-level defender for the Lakers. Walker also isn’t interested in starting, only in whatever it takes to win a championship — a mindset that can go a long way this season.
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