Coming into the season, Wayne Ellington was expected not only to be a contributor for the Lakers, but was one of the reported starters heading into training camp. But Ellington struggled during the preseason, and then suffered a hamstring strain that ruled him out for the opening of the regular season.
Now healthy and playing again after missing several weeks, Ellington had arguably his best performance in the three games since he returned to the floor in Monday’s win over the Hornets. While he scored just eight points on 2-3 shooting from the arc, Ellington’s plus-minus of +21 was the highest mark of anyone in the game, an indicator of how he helped the team bust Charlotte’s zone in the win.
During shootaround before Monday’s game, however, head coach Frank Vogel spoke about Ellington’s 25 minutes in the team’s blowout loss to the Blazers, and how he’s acclimating to the team after his injury.
“Another guy trying to learn new teammates and a new system, which is part of why we are not winning more than we are right now,” Vogel said. “But he’s going to be somebody that really helps us, and it was good that he was just able to play and just blow it out in the fourth quarter the other night. He was able to play the whole quarter, see the ball go in a few times.
“I think anybody coming back from injury takes a few games to get their legs under them, and to get their rhythm and timing right, but when you add that to the fact that we have a lot of new guys, it’s going to be a process, but two positive games (for him).”
As noted, Ellington followed that up by making it three positive performances on Monday night, playing his first true rotation minutes of the season against Charlotte. His 24 minutes were a tick lower than the 25 he played against Portland, but 12 of the minutes in the aforementioned game came in garbage time against the Blazers.
In comparison, Ellington saw time throughout multiple stints on Monday, and showed how he can have value, particularly with the Lakers shorthanded in the backcourt. With fellow guards like Avery Bradley, Austin Reaves and Malik Monk being more sporadic shooters, Ellington’s reputation alone will command attention from the defense. And as he showcased on Monday, he only needs little time to get a 3-pointer off.
There have been multiple times where the rookie has been in a spot where's had to create with the shot-clock winding down.— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) November 9, 2021
Here, he catches in his usual corner spot/floor positioning, sizes up, drives, collapses the paint, gathers away from defense & hits the skip to Ellington. pic.twitter.com/T5izclycAa
With a host of combo guards available, Ellington’s playing time could fluctuate from night to night for the Lakers. For him particularly, his minutes may be tied to how much his shot is falling on a given night, and whether he can hang on the defensive end.
But when things are going right for Ellington, he provides the Lakers a skillset they have not had this season, and could help continue to unlock a Lakers offense that has struggled throughout this season.