Former Memphis Grizzlies guard Wayne Ellington rejoins Lakers after murder of his father

DALLAS — As his eyes began to flood with tears, Wayne Ellington sat in front of his locker in the visiting locker room Friday night in the American Airlines Center and told reporters something his father had inspired him to do ever since he first picked up a basketball as a child growing up in the outskirts of Philadelphia.

Former Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Wayne Ellington rejoined the Lakers Thursday, less than two weeks after the death of his father November 9 in the Philadelphia. Wayne Ellington, Sr. was found in his car with a gunshot wound to the head by an unknown assailant. (Photo by  Juan O'Campo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Wayne Ellington rejoined the Lakers Thursday, less than two weeks after the death of his father November 9 in the Philadelphia. Wayne Ellington, Sr. was found in his car with a gunshot wound to the head by an unknown assailant. (Photos by Juan O’Campo/NBAE via Getty Images)

“I will get through it,” Ellington said. “Obviously, it’s a situation where you’ve got to get through it.”

Ellington was alluding to the death of his 57-year-old father November 9 in the Philadelphia. Ellington’s father — also named Wayne — was found in his car with a gunshot wound to the head by an unknown assailant, news that sent shock waves to Ellington and the Lakers organization moments before the team was about to face the Charlotte Hornets.

Ellington, 27, who signed with the Lakers after training camp in September, was granted an indefinite leave of absence, but rejoined the team Thursday, one day after the Lakers’ win at Houston.

Although Ellington participated in a pregame shootaround, Lakers coach Byron Scott told reporters before Friday’s game against Dallas that Ellington likely would not see action.

“He’s okay,” Scott said of Ellington. “I think he’s trying to get back familiar with us and familiar with his surroundings. I think the more he’s with us, the better he’ll be.”

Ellington was informed of his father’s death following the Lakers’ November 9 win over the Hornets at the Staples Center.

So far, no arrests have been reported.

Ellington He said he plans to dedicate the rest of the season to his father by writing his name on his sneakers.

Ellington He said he plans to dedicate the rest of the season to his father by writing his name on his sneakers.

While addressing the media Friday, a mostly teary-eyed Ellington recalled how instrumental his father had been during his basketball career, most notably during his days at the University of North Carolina and when he entered the NBA ranks after leading the Tar Heels to the national championship in 2009.

“You know, this is what he wanted for me,” Ellington said, when asked what memorable lesson his father taught him. “While at Carolina, you know, he was the guy who was always talking about tradition. He said when you go to Carolina, you look up and see all the banners. He was so ecstatic when I signed here before training camp. He was telling me how proud of me he is. He was saying, ‘You’re back in that same Carolina-type situation.’ He was like, ‘I really feel like this is the spot for you.’”

While several Laker players expressed their disappointment after learning of the death of Ellington’s father, the six-year pro said he was especially pleased with the support shown by Scott, the Lakers first-year coach for whom Ellington played during his brief stint with Cleveland last season.

Drafted 28th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009, Ellington also played briefly for Memphis and Dallas.

“Coach Scott has been a great for me,” Ellington said. “He was great for me in Cleveland as well. When I played in Memphis, we had a lot of guys in the rotation. We were deep every night and I wasn’t playing as much. And then when I came to Cleveland and was playing for him, that kind of gave me a boost of energy, that boost of confidence. And that helped me and it was the same thing when I got here. He’s a guy who has tremendous confidence in me and I thrive off that.”

Besides Scott, Ellington said Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant contacted him regularly to show support during his nearly two-week absence from the team. Also, Ellington fielded phone calls from former Grizzly teammates Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph.

“He reached out almost every day,” Ellington said of Bryant. “It was unbelievable as our leader. Obviously, the season didn’t start off the way we liked. But we’re family here and (the Lakers) made me feel like that.”

While Ellington is expected to see action Sunday night when the Lakers host Denver, the Wynnewood, Pennsylvania native said he sensed earlier this week it was time to reunite with his teammates. He said he plans to dedicate the rest of the season to his father by writing his name on his sneakers.

Ellington has appeared in six of the Lakers’ 13 games, averaging 7.8 points and 3.2 rebounds. He scored a season-best 13 points in 25 minutes in an October 9 loss to Phoenix.

“It was just a feeling,” said Ellington, explaining his decision to return to the team. “And in talking to my family, they kind of pushed me as well. They wanted me to get back to doing what I love to do and to take my mind off of it. Being here has been a lot easier for me. So yeah, man, I’m leaving it all out there every single day, every time I step out there on that floor. I’m going to do something special for him.”

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

New Grizzlies minority owner Justin Timberlake makes surprise appearance at team’s shoot around

Renowned singer, actor, and businessman Justin Timberlake recently joined new Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera’s minority owner group. Timberlake, a Memphis native, made a surprise appearance at the Grizzlies’ shoot around Friday morning as they prepared to host the Lakers.

Memphis Grizzlies reserve shooting guard Wayne Ellington is accustomed to hearing trash talk while out on the court.

Just not from his boss.

Such was the case Friday morning during the team’s shoot around in FedExForum. As the Grizzlies (8-2) were wrapping up their one-hour light practice in preparation for Friday night’s Western Conference showdown versus the Los Angeles Lakers (6-6), Ellington and fellow teammates Quincy Pondexter and Josh Selby had the luxury of working out briefly with renown singer and actor Justin Timberlake.

Timberlake, 31, a Memphis native, in September agreed to join new Grizzlies billionaire majority owner Robert Pera’s ownership group, joining rapper Jay-Z (Brooklyn Nets) and actor Will Smith (Philadelphia 76ers) as the NBA’s only famous minority owners.

During the Grizzlies’ shoot around Friday, Timberlake strolled out on the court wearing sweat pants, a T-shirt, and winter hat, then immediately went after a loose ball and began talking jump shots just inside of the free throw line.

For a while, Ellington sensed his famous boss was sending hints that he was up for a game of H-O-R-S-E.

“He was talking a little trash,” Ellington jokingly said of Timberlake, who headed toward the Grizzlies’ locker room after his brief impromptu workout. “He was asking us can we shoot and did we have a little money with us.”

Timberlake, who did not speak to reporters Friday, has built a good reputation as a businessman in recent years, something that, along with his strong ties to the area, were appealing to Pera. Pera, a former Apple engineer, left the company in 2005 to start Ubiquiti Networks, a San Jose, Calif.-based communications technology company that makes WiFi networking equipment. He agreed in June to purchase the Grizzlies from ex-owner Michael Heisley in June for a reported $350 million.

(Click here to read ‘Does Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel’s marriage move the Grizzlies to the top of celebrity owned sports franchises?‘)

That Timberlake has become a minority owner for the Grizzlies has added more star power to a franchise whose ownership team also includes current Denver Broncos quarterback and Super Bowl 41 MVP Peyton Manning and former four-time NBA All-Star and fellow Memphian Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.

Timberlake’s brief appearance Friday at the Grizzlies’ shoot around even prompted players such as Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol to return to the arena after the team’s walk-through to get a glimpse of arguably the most prominent personality within the Grizzlies organization.

“I think he’s pretty cool,” Ellington said of Timberlake. “That was my first time meeting him. For me to see him in movies and stuff like that then out on the court as one of our owners, that’s pretty cool. It’s great for our team. It’s great for our organization. It’s great for our city.”

Andre Johnson covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected]. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.