Lakers intrigued by Bryant’s shooting ability

While Thomas Bryant lifted shots into the air during his workout with the Los Angeles Lakers in late May, Magic Johnson stood nearby and watched the former Hoosier with intrigue.

“Wow,” said Johnson, an NBA Hall of Famer and the Lakers’ president of basketball operations. “Look how beautiful his ball is.”

Los Angeles likes Bryant’s versatility as a big man, particularly his ability to step out and shoot. Introducing Bryant, along with late first-round picks Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, on Thursday evening, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said he’s excited about Bryant’s potential as a stretch-five in Los Angeles.

“The release, the follow through he has on his shot, the spin on the ball; he has a chance to be an elite shooting five if he stays committed to working hard,” Pelinka said.

Bryant shot 38 percent (23-for-60) from 3-point range as a sophomore at IU last season, unveiling a dimension of his game that had the Lakers, among others, excited about his potential. While other areas of Bryant’s game were inconsistent during the 2016-17 season, particularly as he and the Hoosiers adjusted to life without point guard Yogi Ferrell, Bryant’s shooting ability was one of the things that pulled the Lakers to take him in the second round with the No. 42 overall pick in last week’s NBA Draft.

Pelinka and Johnson also sought background information from former Indiana coach Tom Crean, who told the NBA executives how Bryant increased his vertical jump from 24 inches when he arrived to 30 inches as a sophomore.

“He’s just a guy who’s committed to hard work and becoming great,” Pelinka said. “He has a spirit about him, just a happy energy. (Lakers trainer) Gunnar Peterson in the weight room today said, ‘Hey, I already love this kid after one day.’ He’s just a good person.”

Bryant, who received third team All-Big Ten honors after averaging 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season, told reporters in Los Angeles that he couldn’t be happier with his new team.

“It feels great just to be a part of a historic organization like the Los Angeles Lakers,” Bryant said. “It’s like a dream come true. You don’t want to take that for granted at all.”

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