The Los Angeles Lakers seem to have found the wing defender they badly needed in Stanley Johnson, who signed with the team on a 10-day contract via the Hardship Exception when a number of players were out due to health and safety protocols.
L.A. missed a defensively solid wingman in the first half of the 2021-22 season amid Trevor Ariza’s lengthy spell on the sidelines and Talen Horton-Tucker’s struggle to step up on the defensive end. Perhaps that’s why Johnson’s impact on the defensive end has been easily noticeable since the moment he debuted for the Lakers in the Christmas Day loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Despite his strong play, the Lakers allowed Johnson’s 10-day contract to come to an end without him being re-signed, and they took the court without him in Tuesday night’s win over the Sacramento Kings.
It appears they have no desire of letting Johnson walk though as Dave McMenamin of ESPN is reporting that he is expected to be signed to a 10-day contract on Thursday:
The Lakers will likely sign small ball big man Stanley Johnson to a 10-day contract on Thursday, league sources told ESPN. Johnson, 25, recently completed a 10-day hardship exemption contract with LAL and the SoCal native made an impact with his on-ball defense and toughness
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 5, 2022
The Lakers suddenly had a roster spot to fill after agreeing to trade Rajon Rondo to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost Ricky Rubio to a season-ending ACL injury, forcing them to turn to the trade market in search of a playmaker.
The thought was opening that roster spot would be for Johnson, and although it took a bit longer than it expected, that now appears to be the case.
By waiting to sign Johnson to a 10-day contract, the Lakers can now have him for up to 20 days (two 10-day contracts) before deciding if they want to keep him around for the rest of the season. That will also help the Lakers maintain roster flexibility going into the trade deadline next month.
Johnson clocked in 25.2 minutes on the floor in his first five games for the Lakers, scoring 6.8 points and averaging 2.8 rebounds.
Vogel expressed hope Lakers would keep Johnson
Johnson has left everything on the floor since debuting for the Lakers, the team he grew up rooting for. The effort, combined with his defensive skills, didn’t go unnoticed among L.A.’s coaches.
Frank Vogel recently expressed a desire for the team to keep the 25-year-old even though the decision ultimately wasn’t up to him.
“I don’t know in real detail I can go into on that other than that we still hope to have him back for some more games,” Vogel said. “So all those answers will reveal themselves over the next few days, but right now it’s still up in the air.”
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