While teams typically include rookies and second-year players on their Summer League rosters, the Los Angeles Lakers quickly made it known that Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma would not participate. That left Thomas Bryant and Josh Hart as members of the Lakers’ 2017 NBA Draft class to lead the team.
And when Bryant was waived, it meant Hart became the de facto leader of the Lakers’ Summer League team. However, the Lakers only intended for him to play one game at the inaugural California Classic and one Las Vegas Summer League game.
The 23-year-old had different plans and convinced the Lakers front office to allow him to play more than was initially expected. Hart has rewarded the organization by playing the best basketball of his young career.
Not only has Hart demonstrated the results of his offseason work, he’s also embraced the leadership role on what’s a young roster.
After another impressive performance by Hart, Lakers assistant coach Miles Simon answered what Hart’s commitment to playing more than anticipated demonstrates, as seen on Spectrum SportsNet:
“It says to me that he’s a champion, a winner, and one of the most competitive guys that I’ve been around. And he’s a guy you want in your organization a long time because of those values and those traits. Not just the basketball skills, but he’s a guy who’s going to make others better because he pushes you to another level of wanting to compete or having to compete.”
Hart has led the Lakers to a 5-0 record in Las Vegas and into a semifinals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. Los Angeles is two wins away from repeating as Las Vegas Summer League champions.
Hart is averaging a Las Vegas-high 21.6 points per game, while knocking down three 3-points per contest, and shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 39.5 behind the arc. His play has not only drawn praise from Simon but Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Luke Walton.
LeBron James witnessed Hart’s play first-hand on Sunday, and shared a warm embrace with his new teammate. Although James’ presence might have influenced some, Hart said his focus remained on the court en route to scoring 18 points.
For as well as last year’s No. 30 overall pick has played and while it’s a positive development for the Lakers, Hart simultaneously has increased his trade value. As it was, the San Antonio Spurs reportedly had interest in him as a part of a potential Kawhi Leonard trade.
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