Lakers newsletter: Wayne Ellington is back and ready for the rebuild

Lakers newsletter: Wayne Ellington is back and ready for the rebuild

Good morning, everyone, this is Dan Woike, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, here with your Lakers newsletter.

If you close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose, you might pick up the first whiffs of new-season smell. In this week’s Lakers newsletter we’re going to talk about a real-life “Baller,” the Lakers’ Vegas escape and a quick look ahead at the start of camp.

When it comes to a rebuild, new (and former) Lakers guard Wayne Ellington is something of an expert.

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Yeah, he’ll sit down and be glued to the home improvement shows on HGTV like they’re NBA highlights, but he’s actually put his money (and elbow grease) where his eyes are.

“You know, I think location is the most important thing,” Ellington said over lunch in Manhattan Beach last week. “… And if there’s gonna be a renovation, obviously, it’s got to have great bones. It’s got to be a great structure. It’s got to be strong.”

This, as much as splashing three-point shots at a 38% rate, is an area of expertise for Ellington, 33, who signed with the Lakers for his second tour this summer. He returns to Los Angeles with a deep interest in finance and investment, his primary area of focus being real estate.

On his projects, he’s not shy about picking up a sledgehammer and destroying some walls, because rooms, just like NBA shooting guards, are always better open.

As he talked about the best ways to rehab a house, he started to laugh at the parallels to what’s been going on in his day job.

Like a tile backsplash or a claw-footed bathtub, Ellington knows he’s one of the Lakers’ new fixtures meant to augment the team’s killer location and its “great bones” — LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The Lakers are hoping Russell Westbrook, whom they dealt for this offseason, can be a pillar as well, helping the team look more like it did in 2020 than it did at the end of the 2021 season.

Ellington is one of the team’s newly acquired shooters, signed to help the team improve the league’s 24th-rated offense and ninth-worst three-point shooting team. He’ll join a group that includes Kent Bazemore, Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn vying for minutes in the backcourt alongside Westbrook.

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Ellington, a veteran of nine NBA franchises, has become regarded as one of the league’s most-respected veterans — a career that’s taken him in and out of locker rooms from Miami to Memphis. With so many former teammates, his reach is wide. And, it’s part of the reason why his off-court investments could start to be topics of conversation inside locker rooms.

He’s partnering with Raoul Thomas, an investment banker who is the founder and CEO of CGI Merchant Group, on a program to help athletes learn more about investments, particularly in real estate.

“CGI’s educational platform allows us to fulfill our mission of creating equal generational opportunities for all,” Thomas said in a statement. “Wayne and I have each had our fair share of mentors throughout our careers, which is why we’re so passionate about paying it forward. Through this platform, we aim to mentor other athletes and entertainment professionals to break the stigma and make winning plays both in and out of uniform to secure long-term financial success.”

Ellington isn’t the first athlete turned money man — it’s the plot of HBO’s series “Ballers” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But Ellington’s role as a current athlete taking on this side project is a little unusual.

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“This program is going to allow guys to learn about investing before actually putting in money,” Ellington said. “…Yeah, I mean, having skin in the game, obviously, is a huge part. I would never vouch for anything and I would never try to get guys to do anything that I’m not doing myself.”

It’s one of the unique things about the Lakers and their unique locker-room culture this season. Yeah, the roster is old and that could mean things like athletic deterioration and injuries. But it also means a largely mature group of players comfortable talking about “adult” topics like investing.

It can be valuable for the younger Lakers sitting back and listening.

“Going to be great for young guys who are just coming into the league and come into some money and you know, are trying to figure out what to do with it — other than to spend it,” Ellington said. “And it’s also great for guys who are on the back end of their career who are trying to figure out what’s next.”

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It’s the best thing about a rehab project — keeping some of the old and finding ways to make it new and exciting. And Ellington is betting that these Lakers and this roster will be a successful flip.

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Opening gamble

Speaking of betting, James is organizing a minicamp for Lakers players this weekend in Los Vegas.

It should be interesting to see if footage of the trip leaks its way onto social media to keep tabs on which players are actually there. As the Lakers try to fill their roster (they currently have 13 guaranteed contracts), the team’s evaluating a number of options.

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It’s almost a lock that they’ll enter the season with an open spot to give them flexibility if a player should become available. The other spot, though, could end up going to a veteran player or a developmental project.

The safer bet is on a vet who understands the crowded Lakers roster probably means not a lot of playing time is available.

Veterans like guards Darren Collison and Tim Frazier are viewed to be options. Wing James Ennis has also been linked to the Lakers, who have had workouts with former NBA stars like Isaiah Thomas and Kenneth Faried.

We’re scheduled to talk to Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka on Thursday afternoon, so be on the lookout for that.

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Then, the Lakers will officially open their season Tuesday with media day followed by the opening of training camp Wednesday. You can follow Brad Turner (@BA_Turner and me on Twitter (@DanWoikeSports), and sign up for text alerts with all the latest.

Song of the Week

CAAMP — “Peach Fuzz”

A perfect band for this week’s edition — CAAMP is usually a little more folk-sounding than they are on Peach Fuzz, which I think sounds A LOT like Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha.” This song makes me happy, perfect for sunny days and for the peach-fuzzed face of the training camp that’s about to get underway next week.

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If you like this, check out their title track on their most recent release, “By and By.”

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