Down the stretch of the 2018-19 NBA season, one of the few things promising left to watch for the Los Angeles Lakers was the development of Moritz Wagner.
With the Lakers out of playoff contention and key players injured, Wagner saw his minutes go up and showed flashes of what he can bring to the team in the future.
However, the beginning of the season was another story as Wagner found himself on the bench in street clothes due to injuries over the offseason. Wagner injured both his left knee and ankle during the Las Vegas Summer League and wasn’t even able to participate in contact drills until after the season had started.
Being forced to watch his teammates from the sideline was admittedly frustrating for Wagner as he spoke about in an interview with Mike Trudell of Lakers:
Yeah, my injury, it sucked. I had this conversation with a teammate the other day. It did suck coming in with my injury, but I think in a couple years I will look back at it and say, ‘It was kinda nice to be able to come in and be able to watch everyone.’ But it sucked in that moment to be unable to play with them and prove that I deserved to be here. I had to wait and watch. And it took forever. It’s a little bit like my freshman year experience. You think you’re ready, you worked your butt off, but then you don’t really get some burn, which is not anyone’s fault, it’s just how it goes.
Wagner kept a positive attitude throughout it and used a similar experience while in college to get through his rookie season:
You can’t complain about it, you shouldn’t complain about it, you just got to keep going, keep going. That’s how the job goes. And then all of a sudden, you get your chance. You gotta use it. So that’s how it was my freshman year, and that experience helps me a lot now, trying to understand it’s all part of that. Have a good summer, see what’s up next year. I feel 100 percent again. I could add a little bounce, but that’s the usual at the end of the season, you feel a little tired in your legs, and you can work that out in the offseason and get better.
It is good to see Wagner already recognizing what he needs to improve on this offseason as it will be a very important one. He will almost definitely be playing in Summer League and will have every opportunity to show the Lakers where he is getting better.
As the No. 25 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, there are high expectations for Wagner to develop into the team’s stretch-five.