May 24, 2024

Christian Wood said, “There’s a lot of false narratives out there about me,” much of it drawn from the Lakers becoming the eighth team he’s joined in nine seasons in the NBA.

He said during his session on Monday at the Lakers’ media day that he is “motivated” more than ever to prove his naysayers wrong.

Wood’s critics say the 6-foot-9 forward always wanted more shots in the offense, wanted to play more minutes and his defense was lacking.

Not signing with the Lakers until late in the free-agency period, on Sept. 5 for the veteran minimum for two years and $5.74 million, was something critics pointed to as proof for such a talent.

Wood smiled as he talked about those perceptions, showing that he was very much aware of them and that he’ll have his chance to shine with the Lakers.

“I’ve seen a lot of talk about, ‘Why is he going for the vet minimum? Maybe it’s character issues. Maybe it’s this. Maybe it’s that,’” Wood said. “But when you really look at it, I’ve never had any problem on a team, maybe besides Houston, and that was for defending a teammate and if you ask me, I’d probably do it again. But other than that, I’ve never had any problem with any team, never had any locker room problems. Every coach that I’ve talked to has loved me.”

Wood has a previous relationship with Lakers coach Darvin Ham from their days in Milwaukee, where Ham was an assistant coach and Woods was in his third season in the NBA.

That helped a lot when the Lakers kept pursuing Wood.

Also, it didn’t hurt that he averaged 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds last season with the Dallas Mavericks. Or that he shot 58.3% from the field and 37.6% from three-point range.

“Darvin Ham’s been rooting for me,” Wood said. “That’s a guy that’s always been in my corner rooting for me. So I will say I have a lot to prove and this will probably be one of my most motivated seasons since being undrafted.”

Here are three takeaways from the Lakers’ media Monday:

1) At 28 and with plenty of skills, especially offensively, Wood admitted that he’d love to make a home with the Lakers.

He grew up in Long Beach and always has been a Lakers fan. Now he’s on the team.

“Yeah, for sure. I mean, this is my hometown team. I’m from Long Beach. I grew up watching this team,” Wood said. “I grew up a Kobe Bryant fan. This is where I want to be long term.”

Wood’s ability to stretch the court with his outside shooting should open space for Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

Wood will follow their lead, hoping the two of them will allow him to taste the playoffs for the first time in his career. In turn, Wood hopes he can play a role in the Lakers winning their 18th NBA championship.

“I have one goal. My goal is to get to the playoffs. I haven’t been to the playoffs yet in my career,” he said. “So, that’s a big thing for me. It’s really like a major thing for me, you know, the ultimate end goal. Everybody wants to win the championship and I think one of the things that Bron was telling me over the summer, him and AD, in like the recruiting process, ‘We’re focused on team goals and not individual goals.’ So, that’s my focus going into the season. Eighteen is what we want to get.”

Lakers forward Rui Hachimura, left, and guard Austin Reaves share pointers at media day.

Lakers forward Rui Hachimura, left, and guard Austin Reaves share pointers at media day.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

2) As Rui Hachimura talked to the media on Monday, LeBron James yelled out, “Ruiiiiiii!” Hachimura smiled, another sign of how close the two of them have become.

It started when Hachimura was traded from the Washington Wizards in January and extended to this summer when the two of them worked out together.

James said he called Hachimra “my ‘Daniel-san,’ and I’m ‘Mr. Miyagi.’ And I call him my understudy.”

It didn’t matter what time James would arrive at the Lakers’ practice facility to start his workouts. Hachimura would be there ready.

“Me and him worked on a lot of mid-post and those areas a lot,” Hachimura said. “And of course, we did a lot of shooting, ball handling. Overall, it’s the whole package. But the footwork and stuff, that was my main goal for this summer. Footwork will really help my game in different ways. So I just watched him closely and he taught me a lot of little tricks, pointers, the footwork. That kind of stuff. And using the body. He said me and him have a similar body type. That’s what he said. So, that’s the thing, if you have the body type like that, you can use the body and get to the spot. It’s an easy shot. So that type of stuff I worked on with him and I think I learned a lot from him.”

Ham said that last week four starters would be Davis, James, Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell.

That leaves one spot up for grabs.

Hachimura started nine games during the regular season for the Lakers and one in the playoffs.

He was asked if he’d like to be the starting forward this season, especially after re-signing with the Lakers on a four-year, $51-million deal.

“For me, more so than starting or not, I think I care about playing time,” Hachimura said. “Playing time is more important for me and I want to finish the game. That’s my main thing. And whatever the coaches decide, I’m here for it. I’m fine with whatever they decide, but I want to finish the game. That’s my goal.”

3) James admitted Monday that “I do have interest” in playing in the Olympics next summer in Paris.
He’ll be 39 when the Games start in July and will have finished playing in his 21st season in the NBA. He has played in three Olympics already, winning gold in 2008 and 2012 and bronze in 2004.

“We’ll see what happens,” James said. “But as far as physical toll, I don’t know, we’ll see how I feel at the end of the season. But from the players that we have here that I can think of off of the top of my head that could fill that roster up, I don’t think it would be too much of a physical toll. I wouldn’t have to do much. I mean, rebound a little bit, pass a little bit, defend, block some shots, you know. But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”

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