Lakers Notebook: Xavier Henry Turning Heads
Xavier Henry Making Strong Bid for Roster Spot
For Xavier Henry, making the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster is the main challenge. However, if the Henry’s first two preseason performances are any indicator, then the 22-year-old could be well on his way toward achieving that goal. Since we’re only two games into the preseason, we won’t anoint Henry the next Jeremy Lin just yet. That said, his 22 points per night over his first two exhibition games in purple and gold have definitely turned some heads.
The fourth-year player, who was born in Belgium, heads into 2013-14 with not only his best opportunity to make an impact with a signature franchise, but also with a different look in his eyes than in the past. For some players, adjusting to the NBA game is a matter of settling in, while for others it is more of a matter of locating the right “fit” for their particular skill set. In Henry’s case, not only does the timing seem right, but it appears he might have finally found his niche within the league. After being chosen by Memphis in the 2010 NBA Draft, Henry struggled to find playing time and eventually ran into the same uphill battle in New Orleans for the past two seasons.
This season, Henry appears to be ready to seize the moment, and has seemingly been in attack-mode from the start of camp.
“I just take what the defense gives me,” Henry told HOOPSWORLD. “If they back up, I shoot it. Typically, if they try to crowd me, I can get to the rim and draw a foul. So, I just take what they give me, basically.”
With Kobe Bryant’s return looming, and a ton of competition for minutes at the two-guard position, making the roster (let alone contributing) won’t be an easy task in itself. That could be precisely why Henry has been so assertive when given the opportunity to prove himself. Fans, and coaches alike have noticed and praised Henry’s aggression, as he tends to slash and attack the rim at every opportunity from the moment he makes it into the game.
“I’ve been working with my coaches every day,” Henry said. “I work on offense, defense, the all-around game. As long as I get to the open lane, hustle and play both sides of the ball, I think I’ll be in a pretty good position. I play hard, and give it my all.”
Starting off the year healthy and confident are keys to any young player attempting to make an NBA roster. Even though Henry acknowledged what is being classified as a “moderately sprained” right wrist (his off hand), he isn’t about to let that derail his progress.
“No doubt at all, I’m not missing anything,” Henry said. “I understand I’m in a great opportunity. I’m blessed to be in this position. I’m not going to let anything hold me back. I’m not going to miss practice, shootaround, nothing.”
Henry, like several other players, is fighting for one of the final roster spots. His contract, worth just under $920,000, isn’t fully guaranteed. If Henry continues to produce each time he’s given an opportunity, he should have nothing to worry about. Whether things work out for him with this particular team or not, somebody is certain to take notice of his improvement.
Gasol Looks At Home In The Post
After subjugating his game for the betterment of the team for several years, because that’s just the type of professional and teammate Pau Gasol is, the 33-year-old big man is ready to once again be the primary post option for the Lakers.
Following his first preseason action, a 13-point, four-rebound and one-block performance in just 23 minutes of action, Gasol seemed happy with how things felt in his familiar role. A role, you’ll remember, that led to three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals in Gasol’s first three years with the franchise (2008-10).
“Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with how I felt,” Gasol said. “I was able to move. For the first game, not bad, but still can improve a lot. It’s the first preseason game that I played, and I look forward to the next one. So far, the soreness in my knees has been manageable. I’m very pleased with how they feel right now.”
After struggling through last season, both in adjusting to the stretch-four role Mike D’Antoni initially designated for him and due to various physical ailments, Gasol underwent a procedure on both knees known as FAST (Focused Aspiration of Scar Tissue) that involved a probe being inserted directly into the knee that “directs ultrasonic energy to eliminate scar tissue without damaging healthy tissue,” according to a team release.
For these Lakers to be successful, they’ll not only need Gasol to provide his standard post productivity on offense, but they’ll also need him to be a presence on the defensive end. Gasol doesn’t have to be an all-world defensive force, but they’ll at least need him to be a rim protector. Whether matched with Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman or any of the other viable options the Lakers have in the front court, communication and dedication to defensive schemes will be vital for this team in 2013-14.
Gasol, in his contract year, will be at both the literal and figurative “center” of everything.
News and Notes:
• The Lakers continue their quick start to the preseason with their third game in four nights when they face the Denver Nuggets again on Tuesday. The status of recently acquired Wesley Johnson is unknown, as the fourth-year swingman left Monday’s night’s game against the Nuggets with an undisclosed foot injury. Described as a “burning sensation,” an MRI has been scheduled for Monday.
• Ryan Kelly, sidelined by rehab and recovery from a broken foot, plans to begin practicing by the end of the week. Kelly has increased his activity to playing one-on-one in practices, but is close to returning to full court activity soon, and hopes to play in as many preseason games as possible in an effort to make the regular season roster.
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