Hart Prepares to Lead Summer League Squad
Josh Hart is itching to play an actual game of basketball.
In the 2 1/2 months since the regular season ended, Hart has worked extensively on his game with assistant coach Miles Simon. Yet because those workouts have mostly been individual ones, Hart can’t wait to lead the Lakers’ summer league team.
“It’s time to be competitive and I want to be out there competing,” Hart said.
But Hart — who only played two games at last year’s summer league due to injury — is likely to have his playing time limited.
According to Simon (serving as summer head coach this year), the plan is for Hart to play one game at the California Classic in Sacramento and one more at the Las Vegas Summer League. Hart said he might ask Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Luke Walton to allow him some more playing time.
Hart — who has spent most of the offseason working on his ball handling and jump shot — immediately took the reins of the summer league team during its first practice on Friday.
“He’s come in with the mentality that he just wants to show everybody the things that he’s been working on,” Simon said, “be a leader of this group because he’s been there and played legit NBA minutes.”
Hart is the easy choice to lead the team, with fellow sophomores Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma not playing at summer league.
Plus, Alex Caruso will miss the California Cup due to obligations with USA Basketball, and Thomas Bryant’s status is uncertain after suffering a sprained left ankle in practice.
But the 23-year-old Hart has been there to quickly assume the role of mentor for the summer players, who are mostly rookies.
This includes the Lakers’ 30th overall pick, Moritz Wagner, who stood out to Hart and Kuzma when they sat in on his workout for the Lakers prior to the NBA Draft.
“He battled, he competed and he shot the lights out,” Hart said. “He’s one of the best shooters that I’ve seen as a big. And the way he competed and talked — I think some of those things were the biggest things. We saw him able to put the ball on the ground, space the floor. We knew this kid was good.”
Hart aims to guide Wagner and co. to the same heights that last year’s summer team reached.
With Ball and Kuzma leading the way, the Lakers stormed their way to the Las Vegas Summer League title. And though Hart, Caruso and Bryant are the only returning members of that squad, the expectation remains the same.
“We’re not going there just to get experience,” Hart said. “We’re not going there to get our feet wet. We want to win.”
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