In his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Josh Hart watched from the sidelines with an injury as the Lakers made a run at their first-ever NBA Las Vegas Summer League title. This year, Hart has done everything he can to make sure he’s on the floor to help the team repeat as champions.
Originally, the front office’s plan for Hart was to have him play in one game in Sacramento and Las Vegas. However, after his first few games, Hart told the coaching staff that he wanted to play every game he was physically able to.
“I told them before I left that I wanted to play every one, and after the second one I was like ‘Yo, I’m good, I’m good to play the third one,’” Hart told reporters. “And after that I’ve just been rocking out. I’ve got to give Magic and RP (Rob Pelinka), and Luke some love for just letting me come out here and compete.”
Hart has played in all five of the Lakers’ summer league games and has been nothing short of dominant for his team, averaging 22.5 points, 5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. There’s no doubt Hart is too good for the tournament, but the 23-year-old believes every game is a chance to build on the organization’s winning culture.
”I talked to Luke and I talked to Rob and I expressed to them that I want to compete,” Hart said. “We’re building a winning culture and I’m one of the younger guys that we have, and if we’re building a winning culture and a culture where we want to compete, the wrong thing for me to do is to come out here and play one game and for me to be like ‘All right, I’m done.’
“I’m not too big for summer league or anything like that. I’m a kid that wants to play basketball, a kid with a lot to prove and that’s how I want to do it.”
Hart’s work ethic and winning mentality earned him praise from Lakers summer league head coach Miles Simon, who worked closely with Hart and the other rookies his rookie season.
“He’s a champion and a winner, and one of the most competitive guys that I’ve been around, and he’s a guy that you want in your organization for a long time because of those values and those traits. Not just for the basketball skills, but because he’s going to make other guys better by pushing guys to another level in terms of wanting to compete or having to compete,” Simon said.
Barring a change of heart from Simon, Hart will play in Monday’s semifinal against the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Lakers win on Monday, they will go on to play in a rare back-to-back-to-back championship game on Tuesday.
It might sound like a lot of extra reps Hart doesn’t need, but Hart, the No. 30 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, feels he has to show he belongs in the league every time he steps on the floor.
“It’s obviously a huge benefit because you want to show and prove that you belong in this league, whether you’re drafted high or you’re in the second round and you’re not drafted,” Hart said. “This is a platform to show your talent and show your character, and I think it’s something that everyone if they have the opportunity to do it, should do.”
If Hart’s shown anything this summer, it’s that he projects to have a long and productive NBA career. If the Lakers are lucky, it will all be with them.
Quotes transcribed via Lakers.com.