After three consecutive losses to begin the 2018-19 NBA season, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton inserted Josh Hart into the starting lineup in place Kentavious Caldwell-Pope against the Phoenix Suns.
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While Walton typically prefers to keep his starting lineup intact for as long as possible, it was difficult to deny Hart’s performances through three games. And though circumstances changed, Hart attempted to keep the same mentality.
“My role is the same,” he said after the Lakers’ win over the Suns. “Just go out there, make the winning plays, be aggressive, and just try to help the team win.”
When asked about the differences between playing with the first and second unit, Hart mentioned pace. “It’s always different,” he said.
“Coming off the bench, you have a rhythm with that. It was a little different but felt good. It’s always a little tiring running up and down with that pace, but I felt good.”
For Walton, he felt the Lakers were still soft defensively to begin the game with Hart. However, Walton credited him and the team for improving their intensity as the game went on.
Coming off an impressive offseason where Hart earned the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League MVP Award, he averaged 17.0 points (53.8 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from the three-point line) and 6.3 rebounds through the first three games of the season.
In comparison, Caldwell-Pope only averaged 4.7 points (26.7 percent shooting from the field and 16.7 percent from the three-point line).
With their first win of the season, it does not get any easier as the Lakers host the Denver Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back. The Nuggets are off to a 4-0 start led by Nikola Jokic, who will give the Lakers plenty of problems with their lack of depth at center.
Considering the success, it can be expected Hart will remain a starter for the foreseeable future.