EL SEGUNDO — Given that he celebrated his first 10-day contract in the NBA with a trip to In-N-Out, it shouldn’t be surprising that Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie David Nwaba hasn’t splurged on a new place to live, even after securing a deal for the rest of the season with a team option for the following one.
Instead, Nwaba has been happy to live in the same hotel room he was provided with when joining the D-Fenders as a tryout player.
Moving would take free time anyway, a luxury Nwaba doesn’t have this week as he shuttles to and from the Lakers and D-Fenders, only narrowly avoiding playing four games in as many nights when Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton elected to rest Nwaba in what he said was an effort at injury prevention.
It’s a hectic schedule, albeit one Nwaba is happy to have.
"I feel like I could have (played in all four games),” Nwaba said. “I was up for it. I'm glad he rested me, but I still feel like I could've went."
Nwaba’s crazy couple of days began when he played nearly 29 minutes in the Lakers’ upset victory over the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday, scoring nine points and playing the entire fourth quarter.
Then, as the rest of his teammates boarded a private plane bound for Los Angeles, Nwaba hopped into an SUV with D-Fenders general manager Nick Mazzella for a three-and-a-half hour drive to Hidalgo, Texas for the team’s playoff game against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Nwaba played almost 40 minutes in the D-Fenders’ series-opening road loss, tying for team lead with 22 points while adding six rebounds and three assists. He then headed back to Los Angeles, expecting to play in his third game in as many nights, and while he acknowledged he was tired, he just wanted a chance to do his job.
"The travel is kind of rough. Other than it's been okay. Just trying to play basketball,” Nwaba said. "Just got to make sure when I can I just rest, and just make sure I ice."
The Lakers allowed Nwaba to get some of the former Friday night, and if it seems strange for an NBA team to hold a player out to rest them for the D-League playoffs, Walton acknowledged it wasn’t what the Lakers would be doing if they were in contention for a postseason slot of their own.
"If we were trying to get into the playoffs and he was part of the rotation, he would be spending 100 percent of his time with us,” Walton said. “But we also have a lot of love for our D-League team. He was a big part of their success and we want to make him available for playoff games at the same time."
Most D-League players would kill just for a 10-day contract, but Nwaba demurred on which playing time was more important to him, calling it “tough” to say which team he’d rather play for.
"It’s (playing for the D-Fenders in the playoffs) something they came to me with and it's something I was completely up for. Just an opportunity to get a ring.... It was mutual,” Nwaba said.
After playing 41 minutes in the D-Fenders’ 126-124 Saturday night win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Lakers’ game Sunday has the chance to be Nwaba’s fourth in five days, with a potential fifth in six if he plays in the D-Fenders’ pivotal game three Monday.
The Lakers then play Tuesday, March 11, the final day for Nwaba to be assigned to the D-Fenders to stay eligible for the rest of the playoffs, with the date of their second-round opponent to be determined.
Nwaba smiled as he called his busy week “a first,” and he’s done all of this while adding the extra responsibility of taking point guard reps in Lakers practices too.
“I have no issues doing it. Whatever they want me to do, I'm up for,” Nwaba said, mentioning that he’d played some point guard during his time at Cal Poly. “As long as I have a job, I'm fine with it."
As long as he’s leading the Lakers in field goal percentage (56.5 percent) and true-shooting percentage (59.8 percent) — facts that surprised even Nwaba — his job would appear to be secure for a while, even if his natural inclination isn’t to talk up his success.
"A lot of the opposing teams don't worry too much about me,” Nwaba said. “I'm going to just take what's given."
From shot selection to hotel choices, Nwaba doesn’t see the need to change anything if it’s working for him.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.