Former UCLA forward Reeves Nelson will be invited to the Lakers training camp that begins in early October after he and rookie center Greg Somogyi officially signed with the team on Wednesday.
Nelson still has to go through training camp and could be cut from the team afterward, but he considers this step to be a blessing, particularly because he was dismissed from UCLA in December of 2011, largely for his disruptive attitude.
“I’m very grateful,” Nelson said in an interview. “It’s nice becasue I’m pretty sure that virtually no one thought I could get this far, so it’s pretty gratifying.”
Nelson played for the Lakers’ summer league team in Las Vegas but didn’t see much action until the last two of the team’s five games there.
In those games, Nelson averaged 4 points and 5.3 rebounds, and in the final game against the Clippers he had his best performance with seven points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.
“I didn’t get to play very much in the first three games, and after the fact they told me that it was testing my sportsmanship,” Nelson said. “It was concerning everything that happened at UCLA and they said I did about as good as they ever could have expected.”
Nelson was once thought to be a potential first-round NBA draft pick before his career at UCLA derailed. He went undrafted in June, months after a Sports Illustrated expose painted him as a bully.
Nelson filed a $10-million defamation lawsuit against Sports Illustrated in May. The lawsuit contained sworn declarations from 18 former teammates who said certain allegations against Nelson contained in the story were false.
Sports Illustrated has said it stands behind the story. Ironically, Nelson was on the cover of a regional edition of that very magazine last November when it touted UCLA, and by proxy Nelson, as one of the top teams in the U.S.
After his dismissal from UCLA, Nelson played with BC Zalgiris, a professional team in Lithuania. In six games with Zalgiris, Nelson averaged 2.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in 10 minutes, according to the league website. The team released him after five weeks.
“Basically, I’m going to be a guy that just does all the little things, like glue-guy like things,” he said. “Obviously when you have Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard and Steve Nash and Pau Gasol and everything, you’re not going to get a lot of shots up. I’m just going to do rebounding, hustle plays.”