When Max Christie was drafted 35th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, he was automatically put in a unique situation compared to his peers. Unlike the rest of his draft class, the Michigan State product wasn’t only going to play for the most prestigious team in basketball but also for one that is built around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
But with that opportunity comes the challenge of playing under the bright lights in Los Angeles and having to prove he was worth the investment the front office gambled on by trading up in the draft to eventually select him. It’s a type of challenge that can be considered pressure for most 20-year-olds but not for Christie, who is viewing the opportunity to play for the Lakers as a privilege.
After helping close out a win against the Raptors, Christie spoke about his mindset this season.
“I think I saw it from a different lens,” Max said. “Rather than playing for the Lakers as a pressure, it’s really more of a privilege. Not many people at 20 years old can say they’re playing for the Lakers along with LeBron, AD and all my other teammates. I’m seeing it from that lens as something that I’m lucky to be able to do, I’ve worked for and that alleviates sort of the pressure feeling you have. ‘I feel like I have to play well, I have to do this.’ Instead, I’m just going out and doing the best I can and that’s all I can ask for,” Christie said.
What Christie admits has been a challenge is finding his footing in the league, which is normal for almost every young player. That’s the reason why he was tasked by the Lakers to spend parts of his rookie year in the lab and with the South Bay Lakers to further develop his game.
After playing 41 games and averaging just 3.1 points in 12.5 minutes for the Lakers during his rookie year, the purple and gold gave Christie the opportunity to make the most out of the previous offseason to return as a more polished player and earn his minutes in his sophomore year. Lo and behold, the second-round pick did just that and is now a key piece in the Lakers’ rotation this season.
It took a lot of hard work and patience for Christie to earn his reps this season. What he believes helped him achieve that is his ability to stay ready and professional at all times.
“First off, playing for the Lakers, it’s probably the most historic and biggest franchise in the league so with that comes a lot of responsibility,” he said. “Being a young kid, still trying to figure out my way at times, it’s tough. But I just try to keep my poise at all times and be as professional as I can. That’s just the outlook I’ve had all season is stay ready, be professional and when your name is called, do your thing. I think I’ve done a good job of that so far this season,” Christie added.
This season, Christie has played in 31 of the Lakers’ 42 games so far and has even earned Darvin Ham’s trust to close out some games. He’s grown to be a competent two-way player who has been assigned to tough tasks such as having to defend the likes of Donovan Mitchell — which he excelled at — and Devin Booker. While he’s won and lost some of those battles, what matters to Ham is that Christie continues to make the most of the minutes he’s earned every night.
“He’s trying, man,” Ham said. “He’s a young player, second year in the league. He’s had some big minutes for us thus far. He had some plays that didn’t go his way. He’s still learning tendencies and different reads within a game. We just want him to keep pushing, keep competing, keep playing hard. He’ll be someone that’ll be in the thick of things for us for years to come.”
The best part about Christie’s career trajectory is that he still has a lot of room to grow. He’s shown how much he’s developed over the past year while he continues to scratch the surface of his potential. Fortunately for Christie, he’s on a team that will keep pushing him to do just that on top of competing for a championship alongside two of the best players in the league.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani