The Los Angeles Lakers put up a convincing fight against the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday night, giving the defending Eastern Conference champions a run for their money. The big story was LeBron James and Lonzo Ball sharing the basketball court, but it was also one of the biggest nights of Josh Hart’s young career.
Hart had his number called in the starting lineup for the first time, filling in for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who was out for personal reasons. Josh played a huge role for the Lakers all night, clocking 32 minutes and 45 seconds in his first start as a professional. In that time he scored 11 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and even found himself on LeBron island defending on of the greatest ever in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers didn’t win, but Hart won a big vote of confidence from Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
“Josh Hart, what a tough spot for him to be in,” Walton said as he began debriefing media after the game. “He's been playing a very limited role, and we all know what kind of defender he is and I didn't really want to mess with that second unit too much...
“He really battled on defense. All those switches, 10 rebounds, 11 points, he had a couple layups that he makes most of the time.”
Hart, the 30th pick in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, could be the latest wild card for the Lakers. They deep picks the Lakers have selected over the years have consistently made an impact as major rotation players, and Hart could be the next one to step up to the plate and into a larger role.
“For a national television game, first start as a rookie, I think it showed where he came from as a college player, and winning a national title, and playing for a big-time program for many years. That big stage didn’t faze him at all today, so great work for him,” Walton said.
Don’t be surprised to see the 14.8 minutes per game he’s played through the first 27 games of the season to increase as we move deeper into the season.
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com