It was a tale of two halves for Josh Hart in his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Through the first 30 games of the regular season, Hart was averaging 9 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting from the field, including 37.8 percent from 3-point range, while posting a team-high box plus-minus of +2.9. He was also ranked in the top-five on the team in defensive rating (102.1) and offensive rating (108.5) for an overall net rating of +6.4.
Then, midway through the season, Hart started to struggle with knee tendinitis. While he didn’t miss his first game until early February, the first signs of it can be traced back to early January.
Hart tried to play through it, but the change in his agility and leaping ability was apparent. As a result, his production took a nosedive and in the 13 games he played following the All-Star break, he posted the fourth-worst net rating on the team.
With 11 games left in the season, the training staff decided to shut Hart down and on March 28, he underwent a successful ultrasonic debridement procedure on his right knee patellar tendon that would keep him sidelined for at least the next 10 weeks.
Hart gave an update on his status during his exit interview on Tuesday, and it’s safe to say he doesn’t like being injured.
“It will definitely be different, it will be more frustrating,” Hart said of his lengthy offseason rehab. “I think not being able to get onto the court for another, month and a half, two months, that’s the frustrating aspect. Right now, rehab is slow on this.”
However, Hart also realizes that he need to be patient in order to return to full strength and make an impact for the Lakers next season.
“It’s boring and it’s frustrating for me. I’m going to continue with the process and when it’s time for me to get on the court, (I'll) just keep putting in the work like I did last summer and just focus on that,” Hart said.
Hart has shown he can be a difference-maker on the court when healthy and, best of all, he is an excellent fit alongside LeBron James. Even in spite of his slippage in production, the two-man lineup of Hart and James posted the second highest net rating of any two-man lineup that featured James (minimum 200 minutes played). Surprisingly, Tyson Chandler and James posted the highest net rating (+7).
It might take a little longer than Hart wants for him to get back on the court, but considering what an important part of the team he is, it’s important that he doesn’t skip any steps. Get well soon, Josh.