The Los Angeles Lakers failed to meet expectations in their first season with LeBron James and a large part of that had to do with the way the roster was constructed.
Instead of following the blueprint to winning with James and signing shooters in free agency, the front office signed players who — in theory — could rebound the ball and make plays. However, because they wanted to preserve their cap space for the following summer, the pool of players that fit that description shrunk considerably and left them with players like Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, that experiment fell apart quickly, and it put guys like Josh Hart in an uncomfortable position. During an interview on the “The No Chill Podcast” with Gilbert Arenas, Hart said there weren’t enough shooters on the court for the guys trying to make plays:
“Our team, how it was built, I understood the concept of it, but the chemistry was just so different because you had so many dudes that are ball dominant. You had ‘Zo, you had Rondo, you had Lance, you had ‘Bron, so it’s like just those four right there, you know ‘Bron is going to have the ball and is going to play 30, 35 minutes. So you have that, but then if you play the other guys you don’t have the spacing around it... It was so weird, because we had playmaking, but there wasn’t enough plays to be made.”
Eventually, that forced Hart into a role as a spot-up shooter, which he wasn’t a fan of, to say the least:
“That was the biggest thing with me last year. I trained for what I thought was going to be my role, but then we got ‘Bron, and it was kinda like my summer work... it switched up. You go in thinking you’re gonna take more of a role in being more of a playmaker or a decision maker, or something like that, handle the ball a little bit more, to being just a shooter. Or something like that.
It sounds like he didn’t really like the way the coaching staff handled that role change, either:
What's the point of having a junkyard dog and turning him into Kyle Korver mid season? ouch. Josh Hart not pleased with the Lakers ex coaches. pic.twitter.com/ndJD8Iv6eV— John Ledesma (@JohnnyNBA) May 22, 2019
This time around, Hart is doing everything he can to make sure he doesn’t run into the same problem again, and his first step was talking to his new head coach, Frank Vogel:
“We just got our new coach. I talked to him, and I’m going to talk him again, and I’m gonna be like ‘yo, what do you think my role is going to be?’ Because at the end of the day, it don’t matter what you do in your workouts, because you can be a dog, working out the whole summer, but if you get put in a role and it’s just like ‘all right, stand in that corner and knock it down,’ like it don’t matter what you did in the summer because you don’t get to show it. You know what I mean? So it’s really just like, whatever you think your role is going to be, or whatever your role is, that’s what you work out on in the summer.”
If the Lakers succeed in their plan to sign an All-Star free agent this summer, they’ll need guys like Hart to step up and lead the second unit because of the shortage of cap space they’ll have to fill out their bench after the fact.
It’s also entirely possible that Hart ends up being the team’s starting shooting guard next season if the Lakers somehow land a big name free agent and execute a trade for Anthony Davis.
Whichever direction they go, Hart is expected to be a big part of it, so it’s important for him to know what his main focus should be in the offseason. Sure, one could argue that Hart should be working on everything, but he’s not going to be practicing elbow jumpers and shots in the post if he knows he’s not going to be one of the main options on offense.
One thing’s clear: Hart doesn’t want to just stand it the corner next season. He’s a peacock and he wants to fly. And if he’s not going to get to, he at least wants to know beforehand, and not learn midseason.