Lakers Make Final Call on Forward’s Future Amid Struggles

Getty Stanley Johnson and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers are bringing back Stanley Johnson for a third and final 10-day deal, giving the team one more shot to evaluate him for a full-time roster spot.

The Lakers officially announced the move to bring back Johnson on Monday. Johnson has received some significant playing time since landing with the Lakers, starting five of the nine games he’s played in. Johnson has averaged 5.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 20.3 minutes.

In a typical year, players can usually only sign two 10-day deals. However, Johnson was initially brought in on a hardship contract, giving the Lakers the extra opportunity. He’s been impressive at every turn, drawing praise from LeBron James.

“He’s picked up our system really fast, and part of it is because he was with South Bay, and that gave him a cheatsheet, which we needed,” James said. “And he brought in some toughness at the wing position and also some defensive toughness as well.

“That’s where we hang our hats over the last three years: the defensive side of the floor. He’s a guy that’s hungry,” James added. “Obviously, he’s trying to earn a roster spot. You could tell he’s hungry, and it’s been great basketball since the Christmas Day game, the road trip, Houston, Memphis and tonight once again, and hopefully, it continues.”

Lakers Remain Flexible With 10-Day Deals

Frank Vogel praised Stanley Johnson’s “foot speed” and also his “physicality."Frank Vogel praised Stanley Johnson’s “foot speed” and also his “physicality."2022-01-01T06:41:03Z

With the trade deadline and eventual buyout market less than a month away, the Lakers are looking to remain as flexible as possible with their roster. Getting consecutive 10-day looks at Johnson isn’t an indictment of his talent or fit on the roster, but simply part of the business. The Lakers value having an open roster spot and want to use every minute possible to evaluate Johnson.

“Just gives you another elite defender on the floor, but we’ll continue to evaluate him,” Vogel said earlier this season. “His attitude has been great, his work ethic has been great and he’s been a pleasant surprise since he’s been here.”

The Lakers aren’t exactly flush with young, athletic wings, so that’s something Vogel is happy about when it comes to Johnson.

“His toughness, his defensive disposition, the speed, athleticism and toughness that he brings to the defensive side of the ball is sorely needed,” Vogel said. “And I think there’s an element of we feel like we’re potentially discovering something with his game that hasn’t been seen by the league in terms of him trying to play as a wing as opposed to what we’ve been using him as basically a defensive small-ball center and someone that can get out and trap pick-and-rolls and those types of things.”

Lakers Struggling After Win Streak

It appeared earlier this month that the Lakers had finally figured things out, hitting their stride with their first four-game winning streak of the season. However, the Lakers have dropped their last three in ugly fashion, leading Russell Westbrook to question the team’s effort.

“We’ve just got to make a decision we’re going to play hard,” Westbrook told reporters. “Sometimes, the schemes and how you play, it doesn’t really matter. You’ve just got to play hard sometimes. Teams are playing harder than us, so it’s as simple as that.”

The Lakers have a chance to bounce back Monday against a Jazz team that is on the back-end of a back-to-back.

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