As Ben McLemore prepared for his first Zoom meeting with the local media since officially signing with the Lakers on Tuesday, he fixed his hair and adjusted his new purple and gold, team issued gear. After a day spent cramming his new team’s sets and talking over schemes with head coach Frank Vogel during his introductory physical, he was ready for his first opportunity to make an impression, and his excitement for his new situation was obvious from his frequent smiles.
And if his disposition wasn’t enough to demonstrate his happiness, his repeated use of words like “great,” “happy,” “thrilled” and “excited” were another solid sign that he feels all of the above feelings as he embraces his new reality, freed from what is perhaps the least functional organization in the NBA to end up with a chance to contribute to a contender.
“Obviously it was a great feeling, a great situation for me and my family,” McLemore said. “I think I made the right decision. I’m thrilled and happy to be a part of Laker Nation. I just finished shootaround, I’m trying to get acclimated with the guys and plays and things like that, so I’m ready to get started.”
Vogel said that getting McLemore integrated to the team was a big factor in the Lakers having just their fourth official shootaround of the season, as was Andre Drummond’s return to the starting lineup against the Miami Heat on Thursday night. McLemore will be available to play, and with Talen Horton-Tucker suspended and Kyle Kuzma (calf tightness) listed as questionable and a game-time decision to play, McLemore may actually get a chance to get some burn.
“If he’s in there tonight it will be kind of throwing a whole lot of stuff at him and just asking him to compete,” Vogel said. “We’re doing everything we can to get him up to speed as soon as possible.”
But the Lakers are already plenty familiar with what McLemore can bring. Vogel previously praised his “elite” shooting skill as something the team had to track as a threat constantly during their playoff series against the Houston Rockets in the NBA bubble, and that was evidently a story he told McLemore as the Lakers were recruiting him.
“He just told me how much of a threat I was and that they obviously didn’t want me getting shots, and that he knew that I could come on this Lakers team and bring a big spark of the bench with my shooting ability as well. Obviously that was a big reason and a big part of my decision,” McLemore said. “I have a great opportunity here.”
He also has great familiarity in Los Angeles. McLemore is the sixth Klutch Sports client to join this year’s Lakers, re-uniting with his agency-mates LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and Talen Horton-Tucker. He is particularly familiar with James, who he’s thrilled to get a chance to play with.
“It’s another great feeling just to be able to play with the best player in the world LeBron James, and Anthony Davis and all these guys,” McLemore said. “To put on this Laker uniform is going to be something fun and exciting.”
And as he got up to go study his new iPad filled with the team’s playbook a bit more before his potential debut, he was still beaming about all of it.
“I’m just happy. I’m just happy to be a part of this and ready to get started,” McLemore said.