The Los Angeles Lakers are just over a week away from the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League, where they’ll be hoping to defend their championship. Unfortunately, they will be without several key players from last year’s team, including Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and now Josh Hart (mostly).
Following the introductory press conference for the Lakers’ newest additions on Tuesday, team president Magic Johnson very casually told Spectrum SportsNet that Hart, who was originally expected to be a full participant in both summer league tournaments, will only play in a few games this summer.
“You’ll probably see Josh play one game in each league. We’re gonna shut him down. We just want him to play two games, maybe two-and-a-half, but not that much because we have so much firepower.
“People forget about all the guys that we’ve signed. When we were done with the draft, we were not done. We were on the phones signing players who went undrafted and I have to give Joey Buss and all those guys credit. We’ve signed some really talented undrafted rookies and our team is going to be out of sight for summer league.”
In fact, Johnson was so confident in how good the team would be, even sans-Hart, that he all but called his shot:
“All the fans out there, look, we’re going for it again. We want to win the summer league championship again and I think we have a team that could do it.”
As far as we know, Hart’s game restriction is not a health related issue. However, the front office is wise to take precautionary measures with the second-year guard, who missed all but two games in last year’s summer league after suffering an ankle injury.
Hart would have given the Lakers a better shot at repeating as summer league champions, but the Lakers are still in pretty good shape without him. Not only will the Lakers have their most recent draft picks, but they’ll also have a handful of undrafted free agents including former five-star recruits Malik Newman and Malik Pope.
While it will be tough for Hart to watch from the sidelines, the Lakers will need his defense and intangibles for meaningful games next season. Because who will Paul George back up if Hart’s not healthy?