EL SEGUNDO – Lakers coaches, scouts and executives were finishing putting draft prospects through workouts Thursday when the organization’s most important figure strolled into the practice gym.
Not many failed to notice Kobe Bryant as he made his way down the sideline and took a seat next to Coach Byron Scott.
“I was a Kobe fan growing up,” said Delon Wright, a point guard from the University of Utah. “Just to be at the same place that they practice at was real fun.”
Wright, who played at Leuzinger High in Lawndale and whose brother Dorell is an NBA journeyman, highlighted a group of six players to work out for the Lakers, who hold the 27th and 34th picks, in addition to No. 2 overall.
Joining Wright at the workout was another projected late first-rounder, Virginia’s Justin Anderson, as well as Colorado’s Askia Booker, Tennessee Tech’s Charles Jackson, and Stanford’s Stefan Nastic and Anthony Brown.
While the Lakers have won just 48 games in the last two seasons, players felt a certain weight playing in the team’s practice gym, not to mention under the eye of Bryant.
“There’s an expectation that you come into this gym with a certain type of work,” Anderson said, “and I wanted to make sure I did that and I think I did a great job doing so.”
The Lakers are at least a week away from beginning to work out players who could be candidates for the second pick – Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, Emmanuel Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell are all expected to work out in L.A. – so in the meantime they are focusing on players they might find later in the draft.
They uncovered a gem last year with Jordan Clarkson, who went from the No. 46 pick to the All-Rookie first team.
The Lakers held two workouts this week, with four scheduled for next week. Adding three more rookies to a roster that already includes young players such as Clarkson, Julius Randle and Ryan Kelly would be “unusual,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said, but the Lakers would do it for the right players.
Other options would be to trade the 27th and 34th picks to move up in the first round, trade them for future picks, draft a European player to stash for a year or more or draft a mature player who spent more time developing in college.
Wright, who played two years at the City College of San Francisco before transferring to Utah, could be such a player.
He averaged 15 points per game in two seasons with the Utes, and last season led Utah to a Sweet 16 berth. The knock on the 23-year-old is his outside shooting.
His 3-point percentage jumped from 22.2 percent as a junior to 35.6 percent as a senior, but Wright struggled with the shot in his Lakers workout.
His brother, who spent the last two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, is a 36.5 percent shooter, not a terrible mark by NBA standards.
“He just told me to shoot it,” Delon Wright said. “He knows that I can shoot it when we work out together I shoot it well, just have to transfer it from a practice setting to a game and just be confident.”
Wright said he grew up a fan of the Lakers, but Shaquille O’Neal’s departure coincided with the Miami Heat drafting Dorell Wright.
“I’ve been a Heat fan ever since,” he said. “Now, I don’t have a team, just wherever I go to.”
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