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Basketball / Sports

Lakers' Bazemore is making his presence known in new ways

LOS ANGELES -- Kent Bazemore used to be known for two things.

He was the guy with the comically over-the-top celebrations on the Golden State Warriors' bench, spinning his arms wildly or punching the air with his fists.

He was also the rookie who found his car filled with popcorn as part of a prank last year.

His basketball life has changed considerably in the span of a week.

Bazemore, 24, keeps getting points and playing time with the Lakers, scoring a career-high 15 on Friday against Boston and upping it two days later with another career high, 17 points against Brooklyn.

It's been a blur for Bazemore, who arrived with MarShon Brooks for Steve Blake in what was considered a salary dump that saved the Lakers about $4 million in player payroll and luxury taxes.

Bazemore has averaged 16 points and 31 minutes in two games with the Lakers, also earning his first career start Sunday.

His one shortcoming was his defense against the Nets, surprising because he arrived with a defense-first reputation. He and Wesley Johnson shared the blame for Paul Pierce scoring 14 first-quarter points. Pierce finished with 25 points, making four of seven from three-point range.

"It's tough," Bazemore acknowledged afterward.

He'll happily take the on-the-job experience. His career averages with Golden State were 2.1 points and 5.1 minutes.

"It's fun playing in the biggest market outside of New York. It's a blast," Bazemore said. "People down here, they don't really like Golden State, so I was kind of nervous about that but they greeted me with open arms. They're cheering me on. You can hear the little claps from the crowd when they call my name."

Undrafted after his senior year at Old Dominion, Bazemore makes $762,195 in his second NBA season and becomes an unrestricted free agent in July.

Bazemore enjoyed his time with the Warriors except for one incident. He was on a treadmill for a post-practice workout while a group of NBA veterans, led by Jarrett Jack and Richard Jefferson, opened gigantic bags of popcorn and dumped them in his car. He had to drive slowly to a nearby car wash to get it detailed.

"I couldn't even move my seats back," he said. "The most frustrating thing ever. They set me up. It was good. The smell was in there four or five months."

He chose not to retaliate. "Those guys have too much money and too much time on their hands. I might come outside to find a hot pink car or something," he said.

It didn't dim his enthusiasm from the end of the Warriors' bench.

Nor did it stop him from interacting heavily with fans on Twitter, retweeting followers' observations or pictures and occasionally honoring their requests.

"Sometimes I'll give away a pair of shoes after the game if a kid will tweet me with, 'Hey, can I get your shoes?' " Bazemore said. "That stuff goes a long way. And at the end of the day, you never know who their parents are. The basketball's going to stop bouncing and I may need a job."

ETC.

In a season filled with injuries, forwards Johnson and Jordan Hill lead the Lakers in games played, with each appearing in 55 of the team's 56 games.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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