Stanley Johnson finished 2021 on a strong note, making his debut for the Los Angeles Lakers — the team that made him fall in love with basketball.
Johnson signed a 10-day contract with L.A. just before the Christmas Day clash with the Brooklyn Nets, making his debut in the marquee holiday game. Since then, the 25-year-old forward has averaged 8.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in four games, featuring in the Lakers’ starting lineup in the last two outings.
Growing up in Southern California, Johnson has been a fan of the Purple and Gold since his childhood days. Hence, his Lakers debut was a real dream come true.
The 2015 lottery pick told The Athletic’s Jovan Buha he would imagine himself wearing a Lakers jersey when thinking about his future NBA career:
“When I would think about playing basketball in the NBA, I’d always view myself in a Laker jersey,” Johnson told The Athletic on Thursday.
“It’s kind of like one of those moments now where you’ve kind of dreamed about it since you were 5 and to be able to put (a Lakers jersey) on is cool,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s path to that magic moment included a brief stint in the G League. After working out with the Chicago Bulls in the offseason, the forward became a free agent again just days before the start of the 2021-22 campaign.
Together with his agents, Johnson then decided to join the South Bay Lakers in November, keeping himself in shape while figuring out a way to return onto the NBA courts:
“I’m really happy with the decisions that we made as a group to continue to play in the G League and stay prepared because I really feel like without that process and those practices, I wouldn’t be able to be prepared for the games that I’m playing now,” Johnson said. “You can’t not play basketball and expect to get better at basketball, no matter what you’re doing.”
Johnson’s performance for the Lakers earned him high praise from the team’s stars, including LeBron James. The 37-year-old superstar recently pointed out how quickly the forward pick up L.A.’s system, and emphasized the value in the toughness the Arizona alum’s arrival added to the roster.
Frank Vogel says Johnson adds something unique to Lakers
Head coach Frank Vogel refused to commit to keeping Johnson with the team beyond the 10-day contract he signed in late December. However, Vogel said the forward adds something unique to his team’s roster.
The head coach added Johnson’s skill set allows the Lakers to come up with better game plans for certain matchups, particularly against rivals who can seamlessly switch between big and small lineups.
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