Three days into Lakers training camp and Jaxson Hayes has seen enough out of Max Christie to heap praise on the second-year guard.
“Max Christie is a dog,” Hayes told the media Thursday when asked who has stood out in his eyes.
Hayes paused for a few seconds and then repeated himself, with emphasis.
“Max Christie is a dog!” Hayes said. “His game has stood out a lot to me. I watched him in Summer League. Obviously, Summer League is one thing playing against younger guys. He’s come out here and just kept the same energy and the same mentality, so he’s been killing it. So, his game surprised me a lot. I already knew he was a good player, but he can really go.”
On a Lakers team with so much talent and so much depth, the question becomes how can Christie break into the rotation to get some playing time.
He is listed on most depth charts as the third-string guard, behind starter Austin Reaves and backup Cam Reddish.
But his improved play in the Summer League in Las Vegas left an impression on the Lakers, and they see a path in which Christie might be able to carve out some minutes this season.
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“I put the onus on him not just to go out and try to really thrust himself into all of those minutes and be a leader for the team on the court, but also be vocal and help the coaches out, partner with the coaches and just get that much more familiar what it is we want to do on the court as a team once we get our regular guys back,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “And to show that you’re ready to punch your ticket into the rotation. He’s embraced that wholeheartedly.”
During Summer League, Christie, 20, put the Lakers on notice that he is willing to work for a role on this stacked team by averaging 19 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists over three games. He shot 45.7% from the field and 50% from three-point range.
He worked on his body, adding muscle to his 6-foot-5 frame.
Christie is showing the Lakers how serious he is about his craft.
“He’s already competitive,” Ham said. “He has to have a defensive focus and just the right way offensively, which he does. And really turn up the aggression. He’s one of our most athletic players. He’s done a phenomenal job of working on his body this summer, too. He’s added some muscle. He can shoot it. … [I told him,] ‘Just simplify, shoot the three when you’re open. When you put it on the floor, make sure you’re going downhill if you’re not going into another action with a teammate.’ That’s what he can do: Stay competitive, defend like there’s no tomorrow, keep it simple but yet aggressive offensively.”
Christie is looking like another quality draft pick by the Lakers, who took him in the second round with the 35th pick in 2022 out of Michigan State.
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He played in 41 games last season, averaging 12.5 minutes and 3.1 points, and shooting 41.9% from three-point range. He appeared in nine playoff games for the Lakers, averaging 3.7 points on 50% shooting.
And Christie has displayed the potential to defend multiple positions.
“He has that capability and he’s solid,” Ham said. “He doesn’t play outside of himself. You give him some marching orders and he’s going to execute, whether it’s an individual assignment or where he has to be within concepts of team defense. A really, really smart kid. High IQ and really just solid all around.”
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.