Lakers wing Christian Eyenga, acquired alongside Ramon Sessions in the trade deadline deal with Cleveland, has been the most frequent presence at the team’s practice facility since the season concluded.
We spent a few minutes with Eyenga to discuss his exit meeting with GM Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike Brown, his defensive focus as helped by Metta World Peace and how he didn’t touch a basketball until he was 11 years old:
On his meeting with Kupchak and Brown:
Eyenga: They told me what I need to do to get better and stronger for next season. They want me to work on my jump shot and my body and to be aggressive, and that’s what I’m planning on doing all summer. They want me to come here and work hard every day, and I will.
On finding a defensive focus, thanks in part to tips from Metta World Peace:
Eyenga: I’m trying to learn a lot from Metta mostly on defensive things, but also on basketball in general. He actually has been helping me out since I got traded here. He taught me that you have to take playing defense personally. You have to look at it like, ‘Nobody can score on me,’ as a mindset. For young guys like me and Darius Morris or Devin Ebanks, a lot of it is that we have to be able to play really good defense. That’s one way to stay in the league when you’re a younger guy that’s drafted later.
On trying to prove what he can do:
Eyenga: I haven’t really played much in my three seasons, and next season could be my last opportunity to really show everybody what I can do in this league. That could help me to stay in this league. I played in the last 40 games of my first season in Cleveland, but this season I didn’t really play especially after the trade (from Cleveland to L.A.). I have’t showed everyone what I can do yet. So I’m excited to try and do that next year.
On when he started playing basketball growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinchasa):
Eyenga: I started playing basketball when I was 11 years old. I know that is late, but I picked it up really quickly because I had so much fun playing. I grew up playing soccer first like most kids there, but I loved basketball once I started playing, and I got spotted at a Basketball Without Borders event in my country. That’s where an agent signed me and sent me to Spain when I was 16 to play professionally.
On his relationship with fellow Congolese NBA player Serge Ibaka from Oklahoma City:
Eyenga: Serge and I are best friends. We grew up together and we did everything together. We came through the Congo together, and he also went to Spain to play professionally and then came to the NBA one season before me. When we were growing up, Dikembe Mutombo was the player who really opened the door for players like Serge, myself and DJ Mbenga.