Heading into Summer League, the Los Angeles Lakers were adamant Josh Hart would only play once during the California Classic, then appear in just one game in Las Vegas. But the second-year wing was equally as insistent on playing more than planned.
The Lakers front office and coaching staff relented, and Hart has gone on to lead the team to a 6-0 record in Las Vegas and appearance in the Las Vegas Summer League championship game for a second straight year.
Hart’s play has been stellar throughout, but he raised the bar even more in Monday’s semifinals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hart’s 37 points led the Lakers to a 112-109 double-overtime victory.
His nine rebounds tied for the game-high, and Hart broke Lonzo Ball’s record for most points (36) by a Lakers player in Summer League play.
Despite accomplishing as much, which Hart made clear Ball would be made aware of, he was upset over missed free throws in overtime, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I missed two clutch free throws. I think that was the biggest ones (that stand out). I mean, hey, it was a tough, gut-it-out win. The kind of game it was, the atmosphere was great, it was tough. It just shows you the guys this team has. It was a battle.”
Hart drove to the basket and was fouled with less than six seconds remaining and the game tied. He split the free throws and had the same result with 4.7 seconds left, allowing the Cavaliers to remain within a single possession of tying the game.
That type of nitpicking is further evidence of the tremendous growth Hart has shown this offseason. It’s not gone unnoticed, with Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Luke Walton all raving about Hart.
Johnson went so far as to say Hart may very well push some players on the roster for a starting job come training camp. The Lakers have made it clear they intend to hold open tryouts for all spots in their lineup, aside from the one LeBron James will take.
Before Hart can shift his focus to that, the Lakers face the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship at 7 p.m. PT on Tuesday. It remains a strong possibility that Hart will end the night with a championship and Summer League MVP Award.
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