When the Lakers traded Steve Blake for Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, they got in Bazemore a player that had flashed some versatile talent in the NBA Summer League, but had barely played enough actual NBA minutes to prove it.
As an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012, even making the Warriors roster was very much an exception to the typical rule. The now 24-year-old played only 4.4 minutes per game in 61 games (a total of only 267 minutes), but showed enough promise to be re-signed for 2013-14. His playing time increased only slightly to 6.1 minutes per game (a total of 268 minutes in 44 games) this season in Golden State.
But since the trade to Los Angeles, Bazemore has nearly surpassed his total minutes in either season for the Warriors in only seven games. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has been impressed enough with Bazemore’s play to not only start the Old Dominion product, but play him a team-high 32.5 minutes in those contests.
He’s used that playing time to put up 15.8 points per game on efficient shooting numbers for a wing – 46.5 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three – while adding 3.7 boards, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
“It’s been pretty good just being able to play and show what I’ve been working on since the day I stepped in the league,” said Bazemore. “It’s been fun especially coming into this situation where our back is against the wall. I’m very familiar with that. I grew up this way with not much going for you so you gotta fight and claw, and that’s how you bring the best out yourself. When things are not going well for you, how do you react? So this is a great situation for myself.”
His athleticism and energy has helped the Lakers score 24.0 fastbreak points per game, compared to the 12.7 they averaged before he entered the starting lineup, a mark which ranked 17th in the NBA*.
*Phoenix’s 18.9 FB points per game is a league high, but 5.1 shy of L.A.’s mark with Bazemore.
In related news, L.A. are also scoring more points in the paint, up to 50.7 in the last six games, which would rank fourth in the NBA, thanks in part to Bazemore’s transition game, plus his ability to get to the hoop in the halfcourt. For the season, the Lakers rank 20th at 39.9 a night.
A positive young player who’s quick to credit – and very outwardly root for – his teammates, Bazemore said he’s already taken quite a bit from his six games in Los Angeles.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned that is that I belong,” he said. “I’ve faced guys that I’ve watched destroy the league. I played against a lot of good players and (held my own). The confidence of me being able to play, I think I do belong. I still have a lot of room to grow and still have a lot of room as a player. There are a lot of things I want to fix, so that’s the fun and the challenge.”