Lakers’ Max Christie seizes opportunities in rookie season – Orange County Register

EL SEGUNDO – The business of the NBA has an unwritten process and order that 19-year-old Max Christie is quick to pick up on. When you get the nod of the grid, the first thing you have to do is text your mom.

Christie got a heads-up less than an hour before tip-off in Denver, but quickly got in touch with his parents: “I said, ‘Catch me on the grid.'”

All Christie did was score a career-best 14 points in 6-for-8 shooting in 25 minutes for the undermanned Lakers Monday night. While the Lakers lost to the Nuggets, the rookie couldn’t hide his pride in the biggest game of his career to date.

“Obviously Denver is a really good team, and then it’s pretty cool to get my first career start no matter where it is,” he said. “But in a hostile environment and in a big game, we had guys outside and I had to step up. It was pretty cool and having the game the way I had it was just the icing on the cake for me.”

Christie, who played minutes for the Lakers this season, was surprisingly necessary for a team lacking in wing depth, but his performances also seemed a little like icing on the cake. The Lakers drafted the Michigan State product 35th overall with the idea that after a year or two of development he would contribute.

Injuries to Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves and Troy Brown opened a window for the Lakers’ only draft pick last summer, and it’s fair to say he was better than expected. He shoots nearly 44% from 3-point range, takes on tough defensive duties, and has found ways to contribute beyond the box score. With length and athleticism translating defensively and a jump shot that the Lakers thought might take longer to develop, Christie has enjoyed some precocious flashes.

A pair of floaters, corner 3-pointers and even a fadeaway midrange jumper on the shot-clock buzzer will have fans salivating, but Coach Darvin Ham is more impressed with the less flashy aspects of Christie’s game.

“I’m just trying to keep it easy to play into yourself,” Ham said. “And the biggest thing, his length, his athleticism, he gets defensive rebounds, he’s great at closing with an early stick hand and fighting without fouling. He can make a three. And he can put it on the ground and also do drive and kick games. So just be solid. That’s all we needed to be him.”

Of course, NBA rookies have other roles as well: Christie is expected to provide the veterans with towels, post-game meals and snacks, turn on the showers, and other “rookie duties” that he enjoys. As Christie shared his pride in his rookie work (essentially a mild form of haze), an approving Wenyen Gabriel continued to nod from two lockers.

His work ethic has caught the attention of several veterans. Kendrick Nunn called him “special,” while Russell Westbrook saw some similarities between Christie and a rookie who broke through last year’s rotation: Austin Reaves.

“One thing I do know is that they both work extremely hard,” Westbrook said. “And once you’ve put the work in, eventually, when you have your time, you’ll be ready to go. And I think if Max keeps this up, he’ll be fine. The same goes for Austin. Put the work into it, he does it every day and it shows.”

Christie has few illusions that his high points to date are a road to significant season. He’s already spent much of the season with the team’s G-League partner, and once the Lakers recover, he’ll likely see most of his playing time with the South Bay Lakers.

“I think patience is certainly still there,” he said. “Just knowing that the process is a point for the outcome and sticking to the process every day when I get to work as long as I do my best, do my best, that’s all I can ask for and at the end of the day. If I keep going like this, everything will pile up and everything will work out for me.”

Lakers are trying to heal

When asked about a right pinky he reportedly had to reset twice, Westbrook grinned, “It’s fine.”

He then showed his hands to the media crowd, with his right pinky looking gnarled compared to its left counterpart. It didn’t look quite “okay”. Westbrook brushed it off: “No big deal. Still there. It’s good though.”

The Lakers have had a certain grin-and-bear mentality lately that’s so hurt they routinely reach for depth on the bench. Even Westbrook has already missed a handful of games this season with seven seasons of 80 or more games.

Even the Lakers, who appear to be recovering, are encountering other problems. Ham said veteran guard Patrick Beverley, who missed the second half against the Nuggets with a hip injury, was feeling fine after his slip in Denver but he missed Wednesday’s practice with a non-COVID illness similar to a cold . Lakers’ Max Christie seizes opportunities in rookie season – Orange County Register

Russell Falcon

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