On August 14, the Lakers signed rookie forward Elias Harris, having been impressed enough with Harris' play at workouts -- and in particular at the Las Vegas Summer League -- to offer a multi-year deal that includes a team option for the 2014-15.
A two-time All-West Coast Conference Team player at Gonzaga University, Harris was a key cog in the Bulldogs 32-3 record during his final season. He put up 14.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 27.8 minutes per game. The German native ranks second in school history with his 979 career rebounds, an impressive feat for a player often on the wing, and his 1,857 points rank fourth in Zags history.
We spoke to Lakers player development coach Mark Madsen, who along with the rest of Mike D'Antoni's staff has been working out with Harris almost daily, to see how the rookie's coming along:
MT: What has stood out to you about Harris in your several weeks of watching and working with him?
Madsen: Elias had a great summer league. His versatility is the thing you notice right away, because he can play the two, the three or the four. He came in with a pretty developed perimeter game conducive to the NBA, and is working on adding more and more. We see Elias almost every day, and he's taking all the nuances of what (assistant coach) Dan D'Antoni is teaching him, focusing on making his shot a more balanced and consistent shot. His driving game is something he's spending a lot of time with (player development coach) Larry Lewis on, taking all the materials Larry's giving him and implementing them into his game.
MT: What kind of a kid is he?
Madsen: A really good kid. He's fun to be around in the gym, and makes it enjoyable coming in every day. The good thing about Elias is he's a really hard worker – not just on the court but in the weight room, with his diet, and doing every last thing the organization has asked. His improvements have been great. I think Elias has worked for everything he's received. I remember back to my rookie transition camp and Paul Silas said hard work doesn't guarantee anything, but it gives you a chance.
MT: What's his best position?
Madsen: I think right now his best position is the three. To guard twos at the NBA level, there's still a learning curve there, but he does have the capacity to do it. That process just isn't going to happen overnight. You have to win the trust of the officials and familiarize yourself with the NBA.
MT: L.A.'s head advanced pro scout Clay Moser told me that Harris has "great size for his position, a good overall game, and needs to develop a specialty whether it's the corner three or a dribble drive. Your thoughts on what he can do to really carve out a role?
Madsen: The NBA is a league of specialists and I think Elias could have a number of them. There's no question in my mind that he can be a defensive stopper. He's already proven the ability to get out in transition and finish on the break. He can also play the half court game and wear someone down with his size and strength. And as he continues to hone that three-point shot, that can be really big for him.
MT: And the bottom line – does he belong in the NBA?
Madsen: There's no doubt in my mind that Elias can play in the NBA. Training camp is where everyone has to prove themselves. Any player coming in has to, but there's no doubt that Elias has NBA talent.