While Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma receive the bulk of the attention, fellow Los Angeles Lakers rookie Josh Hart has steadily begun to make a name for himself. Hart was thrust into the starting lineup against the Portland Trail Blazers, filling in for an injured Brandon Ingram.
The start was Hart’s third this season, and second in the past nine days as he was inserted into the lineup when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was unable to be with team for a matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers due to a court-ordered travel restriction.
While Lakers head coach Luke Walton was frustrated by the officiating and his team’s demeanor on the bench, which he described as ‘pouting,’ Hart earned more praise from his coach Saturday night.
“Josh was great. He was ready to go, he was tough, he was engaged, he was attacking the paint,” Walton said. “Obviously, rebounding is one of the main reasons that he’s been earning some extra playing time.
“I was very pleased with the way that he played. This is a league where you earn what you get, and he’s earned those extra minutes right now.”
Hart has played in 26 games for the Lakers, and his averages — 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game — don’t jump off the stat sheet. But he’s scored 11 points in three of the past five games, and notched a second career double-double against the Trail Blazers.
Hart is among the team’s players who have spent time with the South Bay Lakers affiliate, which has paid dividends. “I’m confident. Offensively, defensively, I’m feeling good. Confidence is growing every game,” Hart said after the loss to the Trail Blazers.
While his starts figure to be limited and a byproduct of injuries or other circumstances, the 22-year-old remains focused on contributing by any means necessary.
“I just view it as an opportunity,” Hart said of starting. “I just go out there and try to do anything that I can to help the team win. Whether that’s being aggressive, defense, rebounding, anything.”
WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DISCUSSION? CHECK OUT THE NEW LAKERS NATION FORUM CLUB