Although the 2021-22 season has been mostly filled with sorrow for the Los Angeles Lakers, Malik Monk can look back at his performance and still hold his head high.
Monk is on course to finish the campaign as only one of the three Lakers with a positive net rating in 2021-22, behind Austin Reaves and Wenyen Gabriel. Also, he will come in fourth among the best scorers on the roster, currently averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game.
What’s more, Monk will set new career highs in rebounds (3.4) and assists (2.9), highlighting the guard’s growth in his fifth NBA season.
“Just being an all-around player, not just focusing on putting the ball in the basket,” he said, discussing how he has evolved as a player.
“Trying to rebound, trying to get other guys involved. Just playmaking, just more mature. I think I got a more mature game than my last four years. So happy with my performances, but super duper mad we got put out.”
Monk said he tried “not to be too down on himself” after the Lakers got officially eliminated from Play-In Tournament contention, explaining he experienced that feeling in his four-year spell with the Charlotte Hornets.
However, he acknowledged it feels “surreal” that the Lakers have nothing left to play for in 2021-22.
“Definitely surreal, especially the Lakers being the best franchise in the NBA, it’s super surreal that we let the fans down,” Monk said. “But it’s all good, we have years like this, teams have years like this. You just got to build from this and not ever let this happen again.”
In the remaining two games of the season, the 24-year-old said he wants to “be a good teammate” and simply play basketball.
“Just go out there and be a great teammate and play the right way,” Monk said. “Play basketball the right way, not just force things and just try to get the guys that haven’t played all year or didn’t get a chance to play some shots. Like I said, just be a good teammate.”
Monk discusses learning to play with superstars
Monk found himself playing alongside superstars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the first time in his career when he signed with the Lakers last summer. The Kentucky alum said he needed to get used to playing with players of such a format.
“It’s a tough curve, but it’s a part of being a basketball player,” Monk said. “It’s a part of being in this game. Learning how to play with superstars because almost every team has a couple of superstars on it and you’re not always gonna be that guy. You just got to go out there and try to play the right way every time, compete.
“The people that need to see will see that and you just can’t get down on yourself because these guys are amazing.”
Monk’s teammateship with James and Davis might end after a year, as the guard is expected to be offered between $5 million to $10 million a year in free agency. Such evaluation could price the Lakers out of resigning Monk.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!