EL SEGUNDO — Perhaps no one was more candid during exit interviews Thursday about their feelings on a star-level free agent joining the Los Angeles Lakers this summer than rookie Josh Hart.
When asked if, as a member of the team’s young core, he’s excited about the mere possibility of a max-level player coming to L.A., he said he “definitely” was. But in almost the same breath, he offered something of a caveat.
“If that that happens, I think it could be nothing but great for this team and for this franchise,” Hart said. “But our job as players is to work like we’re not going to, to work as if nobody’s gonna come here in free agency, and to work as hard as you can to get to that next level. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
In his 170-word answer, Hart provided a glimpse into the mindset of himself, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram when it comes to their future roles for the Lakers. And looking more closely at how those three players developed during the season, that mindset is hidden in plain sight.
The Los Angeles Lakers have already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. And with just eight games to go in the regular season, the team is looking for ways to stay motivated through the stretch run.
Forward Brandon Ingram, who just returned from a groin injury that’s kept him out since March 1, said he felt somewhat disappointed that the team could no longer make the playoffs. But despite that, he and the rest of the Lakers are focusing on how they can keep their momentum going over the final eight games of the year, seven of which are in Staples Center.
“I didn’t lose sleep over it,” Walton said of being eliminated from the playoffs at Wednesday’s shootaround. “I’ve said all year: It’s about the journey we’re on and where we’re trying to get to. Obviously we wanna make the playoffs, but it’s part of the reason why we don’t talk about it all the time. Because now that we haven’t made it, we still have other goals we’re trying to reach and we still have other things we’re trying to do. I would expect our players to come in and play just as hard even though we can’t make the playoffs now.”