Since Stanley Johnson’s first game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, the team around him has been changing non-stop. The former South Bay Laker arrived on Christmas Day, attempting to fill the gaps left on the roster by COVID-19 regulations and injuries.
Johnson recorded seven points in his Lakers debut, but the energy and hustle he brought with him was undeniable. He became a staple on the team, earning valuable minutes as he fought continuously on defense.
Through Johnson’s 27 starts with the team, it became clear he knew his part well. He used each game to highlight the players around him and get everyone to fulfill their role, something Johnson said is pivotal for the team to master.
“I think it’s a team. It’s a team, everyone has their roles,” Johnson said. “Everybody can’t be doing that, so there needs to be someone else to be scoring and doing other stuff like that. I think it’s more of a thing just let’s get the guys who are supposed to be doing those things, doing ’em at a high level. Being a star in your role, being a super star in your role whatever that is and getting the guys that do what they do to do that at a high level as well. Those things need to come together at the same time, if you get what I’m saying.”
Johnson’s game quickly improved during his time with the Lakers. Former head coach Frank Vogel rewarded Johnson’s consistent hustle with steady minutes, and a two-year contract with a team option heading into next season. He found himself putting up double digits in points and dominating the boards multiple nights with the Lakers.
Johnson has already expressed his desire to return to Los Angeles next year, hopefully with a fully healthy roster that is able to achieve more success. He acknowledges the need for other skills on the team, however.
“So basically what I’m trying to say, what I would do as a defender or a hustle player we can’t have five guys just defending and hustling,” Johnson said.
“There has to be this guy’s on the court he’s doing this, this guy’s on the court he’s doing this and these things have to tie together. Even on defense for instance, I might be the guy who is guarding a guy like Luka and it seems like I’m making the plays but I’m not really making the plays. There’s four guys behind me, they’re in the right positions and when the ball is loose I’m able to go grab it. Outlet it to Russ or outlet it to Bron, and then Russ or Bron is running the lane and now they can make the play that they’re supposed to make.”
Johnson recalls first game with Lakers as ideal blueprint
During a few stints throughout the season, it seemed like the Lakers were scrounging together the pieces they needed to make a postseason run, or at least a respectable regular season. One such stretch happened around Christmas, at the same time Johnson joined the team on a two-year contract.
Although Los Angeles fell to Brooklyn on Christmas Day, Johnson said he believes the team had both the right pieces and the right chemistry during that game. The Lakers won their next four out of five games following the seven-point loss to Brooklyn, and finally found themselves above .500.
“Kind of like my first game here on Christmas,” Johnson said. “I was doing a lot of defending, Bron was doing a lot of scoring, Russ was doing a lot of facilitating and it was all working together and we beat the league down and almost won the game. It’s more of a thing in my opinion that will work together than more say having five or ten guys all being like a hustle defender type of guy. It has to be a chemistry and equal balance. Everyone has to play hard now, everyone has to be able to make a hustle play but not everyone can expend that type of energy on a certain guy or in this certain scheme like that.”
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