The Los Angeles Lakers are a bad basketball team. Adding LeBron James was supposed to change that, but with 18 games left in the regular season, they have yet to reach their win total from last season.
However, unlike the past few years, people actually care that the Lakers are bad because there’s a difference between being a bad, rebuilding team and being a bad, LeBron James team. The latter gets more criticism, as you can imagine.
To some, that outside noise — which is amplified because of how popular the Lakers are globally — can be a distraction, but Josh Hart thinks the Lakers should use it as motivation to get them through the rest of the season.
After their loss to to the Clippers on Monday, Hart said that the pressure that comes with playing under the bright lights of Los Angeles should be all the motivation the Lakers need, even if they’re basically eliminated from postseason contention:
”We got to be the best team we can be. We want to make the playoffs and that’s the goal, we don’t need motivation. If you’re not motivated with our backs against the wall, (and while) everyone is counting us out... (trails off)
“We’re probably the most criticized team in the NBA. If that doesn’t motivate you, doesn’t get you up in the morning, get you ready to go out there, ready to compete, nothing will.”
Throughout the course of the season, motivation and effort — or lack thereof — have been major talking points with this team, but Hart shouldn’t be viewed as part of that problem. When healthy — and even sometimes when not — Hart has laid it all out on the floor for his teammates.
I'm sorry Josh Hart...I promise this effort does not go unnoticed. pic.twitter.com/rLLGZ4zjQu— UnwrittenRules (@UnwrittenRul3s) March 6, 2019
Even when his shots aren’t falling, Hart has been getting back on defense, grabbing rebounds and makings hustle plays. He’s ranked fourth on the team in deflections and fifth in loose balls recovered.
As far as being the most criticized team in the league, that’s a given. The Lakers have been the beneficiaries of their geographic location for the past several decades, and the most recent example of that is, of course, James signing with them following their first 30-plus win season since 2013.
Arguably the greatest player alive signed with the Lakers just because they’re the Lakers. Of course they’re going to be heavily criticized when they’re not playing well.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton, who spent nine years with the Lakers as a player, knows the expectations that come with being in L.A. and said he wasn’t concerned about the criticism Hart mentioned (via Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register):
“I’m not worried,” he said. “The Lakers are always in the media: good bad, whatever you want to look at. I don’t try to compare it against other teams as far as how the media perceives us.”
Still, if attention from the media is a concern to a player, the Lakers probably aren’t the team for them. Sorry, Kyrie and KD.