Can Reeves Nelson make the Los Angeles Lakers out of training camp?


Kobe Bryant.

Pau Gasol.

Steve Nash.

Dwight Howard.

When you think about the Los Angeles Lakers this coming 2012-13 season, those are the four names that instantly come to mind. And then there is Reeves Nelson. 

While all eyes will be focused on Bryant, Gasol, Nash and Howard, this could be the most important October in the young professional basketball career of Nelson.

Scratch that.

This will be the most important October for Nelson who will be in training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers with a non-guaranteed deal.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images/ZimbioAfter everything Nelson has been through, this will be the difference between making the roster out of training camp, having to settle for the D-League or even give another shot at playing overseas after a shoddy experience in Lithuania after getting bounced from UCLA last December.

Nine months later Nelson is preparing for training camp to open on October 2.

What a crazy around the world journey it has been to get to this point for the 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward.

The story is well documented.

Nelson struggled with "behavioral problems" at UCLA and UCLA head coach Ben Howland dismissed him from the team  in December after Nelson was suspended for a game against Middle Tennessee State earlier in the season, missed the team flight to Maui for the Maui Invitational, was suspended for the first half of UCLA's first round game against Chaminade and then was benched in the second half against Texas on Dec. 3.

Some pundits chalked it up to “Reeves being Reeves”. Others in the media scratched their head at the idea of a talented young player short-changing his career and having to cut his college career short. Nelson was named to the All-Pac-12 first team following his sophomore year and averaged 12.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 27.0 minutes (68 games) during his college career.

After his benching against Texas, Nelson was dismissed from the team six days later and weeks later found himself slipping on a green and white jersey for Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania. It was not exactly a great fit. 

In seven games with Zalgiris, Nelson averaged just 2.5 points, 3.3 rebounds in 10 minutes per game. At the time, Zalgiris' sporting director Vitoldas Masalskis was not concerned with Nelson's questionable past at UCLA. Apparently the Lakers are not either.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images/ZimbioThe 20-year-old Nelson landed a summer league gig with the Lakers and averaged 4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game. The feedback from the coaching staff and those within the organization was positive: he played with purpose and desire and eventually parlayed that into a non-guaranteed training camp de

This week, Nelson learned he had parlayed that summer league stint into a one-year, non-guaranteed deal and training camp invite with the Lakers.

But while Nelson is getting a huge second chance hear in Los Angeles, what chance really does he have to make the Lakers opening day roster?

It all depends if he and find his role early and excels in that situation coming off of Mike Brown’s bench. Defense, rebounding and bringing some physical energy will be Nelson’s calling card in camp and once preseason basketball gets underway. While Nelson is a project and is still learning to play the game the right way, he would be smart to attach himself to the Lakers veterans and soak up their NBA insight.

Devin Ebanks and Nelson are expected to compete for minutes playing behind Metta World Peace, so if Nelson is going to have a shot in training camp with the Lakers he will have to fight for it. 

Would Reeves Nelson help the Lakers? Is he worth the risk? Join the discussion by commenting below or hashtagging #LakersDay on @CrossoverNBA!