When the Los Angeles Lakers young core became a common refrain last season, it was used to describe a quartet that consisted of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle. By the end of the season, Josh Hart had played his way into that grouping.
As the No. 30 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and a senior out of Villanova, most initially glossed over Hart because of a lack of flash. But steadiness and maturity to his game earned him notoriety.
And in a game when LeBron James dazzled with his dominance, Hart played a key role for the Lakers on a night in which he hardly saw the court because of foul trouble. His two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter helped cement a comeback victory and 4-0 record on the homestand.
“Just mentally staying in the game,” Hart said of remaining engaged even while sitting on the bench. “Just making sure I’m locked in on the bench, seeing the mistakes and positive things they’re doing.”
As for the chance to deliver in a key spot, it was an opportunity Hart embraced. “As a basketball player and competitor, you love those moments,” he said. “You love moments when you hit a big shot or something like that. I love being put in that situation. Hopefully I’m in that situation more.”
While James scored 20 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, Hart, Lonzo Ball and Kuzma were each involved late against the San Antonio Spurs. It naturally added to the recent conversation that’s surrounded James and the team in terms of his workload.
From the outside looking in, the performance could be taken as proof the young core is capable of shouldering plenty. Hart doesn’t view it as such, however.
“Important to who? I mean, I don’t really care what people say. I don’t think half the people here care about what the outside world says,” he said.
“The only thing that really matters are the people in the locker room. Myself or this team doesn’t have anything to prove to anybody in the outside world. When we’re on the road, it’s only us. And when we’re [at home], it’s only us. People are going to talk, whether we do good or bad. So, I mean, I don’t really care.
“I don’t think I have anything to show, anything to prove to anybody else. I’m going to do what this team needs me to do, everyone else is going to do what we need them to do.”