While it’s possible the Los Angeles Lakers will see Brandon Ingram return this week from a groin strain, the same doesn’t hold true for Josh Hart. He suffered a fracture of the fourth metacarpal on his left hand in late February and underwent surgery.
The Lakers projected Hart would miss four to six weeks, leaving open a slim possibility he would return before season’s end. Head coach Luke Walton insisted Hart would only play if he was fully healthy, as the team was not willing to risk the future for a handful of games.
Hart recently got on the court to go through shooting drills for the first time since undergoing hand surgery. He said a “very flexible plan” was in place to get him back to game action.
Now the rookie forward has progressed to eyeing a specific date for his return, which Hart said on Spectrum SportsNet is March 30 against the Milwaukee Bucks:
“Definitely a possibility. Last week was a little rough. The tissue was a little sore and that kind of thing, but now the flexibility of it is starting to get there and the swelling is going down. I’m definitely targeting that game to try and get out there. Hopefully sooner, but definitely targeting that game.”
Should the 23-year-old play that night, it would mean Hart could appear in up to eight games before the regular season winds to a close. The Lakers remain mathematically eligible for the playoffs, but that’s an unlikely scenario.
While Hart’s absence overlaps with that of Ingram’s, the Lakers are 5-5 since Hart broke his hand in practice. They won five of the first seven games during that stretch but are since mired in a current three-game losing streak.
Hart is averaging 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in 55 games (20 starts). He’d begun to settle in to a role as a starter at the time of suffering the injury. Hart was inserted into the lineup on a permanent basis on Feb. 2, and in 10 games scored in double-figures eight times and produced four double-doubles.
He set a career high with 14 rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets when his string of starts began in early February.