Lakers big man Christian Wood details why 2023-24 will be one of his ‘most motivated seasons’

Mary Raleigh
04/10/2023

Christian Wood doesn’t agree with the reputation he’s developed across the league, but is using it as fuel with the Lakers.

Christian Wood is fully aware of the unflattering reputation that’s followed him across his well-traveled eight-year career in the NBA. The veteran big man, believe it or not, definitely doesn’t agree he’s earned the negative label associated with his game. Regardless, Wood will be using it as fuel to drive him towards an especially motivated season in 2023-24 while making his Los Angeles Lakers debut.

Wood opened up on Monday about being relegated to the minimum-contract market in free agency this summer, answering with a defiant affirmative when asked if he had anything to prove this season.

“I think there’s a lot of false narrative out there about me. I think I put up 17 and 9 or something like that and I signed for a vet minimum. I’ve seen a lot of talk of ‘Why is he going for the vet minimum? Maybe it’s character issues, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that.’ But when you really look at it I’ve never had any problem on a team,” he said. “Every coach that I talk to has loved me. I still talk to Silas and Casey and all those guys to this day—they root for me. Darvin Ham’s been rootin’ for me. He’s a guy that’s always been in my corner, rootin’ for me. So, I would say I have a lot to prove. This will probably be one of my most motivated seasons since being undrafted.”

Christian Wood’s NBA history before Lakers signing

Lakers, Lebron James, NBA, Christian Wood, Rob Pelinka

Wood signed with the Lakers in early September, settling for a two-year, minimum contract that contains a player option for 2024-25 after receiving scant league-wide interest over the first two months of free agency. He spent last season with the Dallas Mavericks, who reportedly acquired Wood without the approval of coach Jason Kidd.

The issues that dogged Wood in Dallas are the same ones that have followed him throughout his career. While his rare gifts as a versatile, multi-level scorer from the interior are undeniable, Wood’s offensive tunnel vision and largely unavoidable struggles on the other end have prevented him from finding a long-term NBA home.

In a league that values ball movement, role dependability and two-way effectiveness more than ever, there’s a major question whether Wood has what it takes to make consistent contributions to winning basketball, especially at the game’s highest level. Wood, after all, has never played for a team that finished with a winning record.

While he’s hardly at fault for failing to drag the young Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets above .500, it’s indeed telling that Wood has never been the type of trade or free agent target that contending teams truly covet. The Mavs only gave up the No. 26 pick in last year’s draft to get Wood from Houston, a controversial move that raised eyebrows across the league, and had no interest in bringing him back less than a year later—even on the cheap.

Wood isn’t the clean fit for the Lakers his natural talent and per-game numbers indicate. It’ll be tough to play him next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis offensively unless Los Angeles’ superstars find their wayward jumpers, and Wood doesn’t offer enough supplemental rim-protection to make his presence worth asking James to chase smaller players defensively. Odds are that Wood’s best moments with the Lakers come as a scoring sparkplug off the bench, running pick-and-roll with James, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Gabe Vincent when Davis is resting or unavailable.

Fortunately for Wood, that reserve role is the one in which he’s long seemed likeliest to thrive. For both his sake and the Lakers’ title hopes, here’s hoping Wood embraces it as much as he’s suggesting he will, doing all the little things on the floor and in the locker room that will help clean up his stained reputation.

 

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