As he told NBA.com's Jeff Caplan, this is just the first chapter of his NBA dream. He's hoping that the next phase, playing alongside future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, will be his next basketball domino to drop:
Shoot, that would be a dream come true, and with the track record he has, the body of work he has, I would be all ears. For a guy who’s been through everything he’s been through, playing half of his life in this league, winning multiple championships, why not listen? If I got to go against him every day, I know I’m not cheating myself, so I would look forward to it. In all honesty, I don’t think he’s that tough to play with. If he demands a lot, he just wants to be great. You can’t really knock that.
The Lakers, in need of some young talent to fuel their rebuild, might have unearthed a gem in the second-year guard. In 10 games with his new team, he's averaged 14.6 points on .459/.404/.595 shooting, setting a slew of personal bests along the way:
If he's found a path to consistent offense, the potential payoff for the Lakers could be great. He took home the Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2011 and left Old Dominion University with the Colonial Athletic Association's best career defensive rating (89.59), via Sports-Reference.com.
He has the tools to be the defensive complement to Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive system. He's long (6'5" with a 6'11.5" wingspan), athletic and motored by the insatiable energy needed to thrive at the defensive end.
He's also a discount contributor, making just $788,872 this season with only a $1.1 million qualifying offer needed to keep him off the unrestricted free-agent market, via ShamSports.com.
Will the Lakers make that call? That's hard to say.
What's becoming more evident by the day, though, is that it's an option at least worth considering for LA.
"The young guard hasn't yet reached his ceiling," Bleacher Report's David Murphy wrote. "It would be wise for the Lakers to invest in Bazemore's development, because that's how teams with lousy records actually improve."
He might not become the heir apparent to Bryant that the Lakers still haven't found, but his game could grow exponentially alongside the "Black Mamba."
Plagued by a nagging knee injury, Bryant hasn't yet begun to teach the newest crop of Lakers guards. But that hasn't kept Bazemore from clamoring for a front-row seat once the Bryant School is back in session.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
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