24 Jun 19
Orange County Register
Editor’s note: This is the Monday, June 24 edition of the Purple & Bold newsletter. To get the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.
Josh Hart is the kind of man who doesn’t hide when he has something on his mind.
Through two years with the Lakers, the 24-year-old guard became a sure bet in the locker room to speak candidly. As far back in December, he made the intriguing comments that an opponent played “the right way” after a night in which LeBron James took a barrage of shots. He revealed when he was feeling the ill effects of knee tendinitis, and didn’t lie when asked if platelet injections had helped: “Not really.” As the clock ran out on the Lakers’ playoff hopes, Hart was among those openly discussing the chemistry issues and trust problems that were getting in the way.
So imagine Hart, a week removed from being traded, in front of an open mic for an hour. In the opening episode of his new show, the LightHarted Podcast, there was a thread of tension that had been pulled taut, and several times Hart appeared ready to go into it.
“There’s a lot of stuff I want to say right now,” he said, laughing at one early point in the podcast.
But instead of going in on the Lakers, Hart has mostly taken the high road after the trade that shook up his career, as well as several other young Lakers who will now start anew in New Orleans.
In the wake of the Anthony Davis trade, a lot of focus has been on what the Pelicans received in draft assets, how the deal affects the cap space, and how Davis will pair with LeBron James next year. But there’s also the futures of Hart, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to consider.
One of the tensions that affected the team last year was how the youth was under pressure to blend with James. That wasn’t just on an on-court level — players were aware well before the January Davis trade demand that James wished to be on a winning team, and that they were possible trade assets to bring in the alluded “second star,” whoever that might be.
It was awkward: Certain young players on the team didn’t want to be the stick in the mud, the person that said or did the wrong thing to get himself traded away. As actual trade discussions ramped up in February, this tension ratcheted up to disruptive levels that, at times, made it hard for the Lakers to play well together.
Now Ball, Ingram and Hart have seen that realized, and while a video surfaced of Ball reacting to the trade, saying it was “good,” Hart has been the most outspoken of the trio. The weekend the deal became known, Hart showed up to a video game event wearing a New Orleans Pelicans shirt.
It’s a good bet that Hart has a great deal on his mind. Throughout his podcast with Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, he inserted little digs at his Lakers tenure. When Gurley talked about how rich Los Angeles is in business opportunity (a huge reason none of the young core wished to be traded), Hart muttered back: “I think New Orleans might be better.”
But whatever those feelings might be that he’s tamping down, Hart had plenty of warm words for L.A., too. In an Instagram post and on the podcast, he thanked Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson and the Lakers for drafting him in 2017.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “I wish them nothing but success.”
Note that general manager Rob Pelinka wasn’t one of the listed parties — it’s a pretty good bet that Hart won’t be sending him a Christmas card this year.
NBA AWARDS AHEAD
The NBA offseason is its own never-ending show, and that continues tonight with the NBA awards.
The Lakers don’t have any nominees, but you can tune in to see the winner between the closely contested MVP candidates James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as a teammate battle for Sixth Man of the Year between Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams. Luka Doncic and Trae Young had a fun rookie of the year battle.
While we’re not as likely to see the drama last year when Dwane Casey won Coach of the Year after being fired by Toronto, there’s probably some worthwhile moments ahead.
The show is being aired on TNT starting at 6 p.m. PDT. You can check out our coverage as well.
– Kyle Goon
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Lakers links galore
How AD will play: A look at the schematic factors that the new Laker brings to the court.
Third-team trade options: The Lakers are believed to be trying to find ways to open up a third max salary slot before free agency.
Lottery luck run out: The Lakers never had as many lottery picks as they got in the last five years. Here’s how they’re all gone now.
Lakers being led by LeBron? Mark Heisler says the leadership has looked inept while James has helped engineer moves.
How will they get help? Mark Whicker considers the wisdom of trying to build a group around LeBron and AD instead of a third star.
Fans stay vigilant: Jim Alexander writes about the unwavering confidence fans had that Anthony Davis would one day arrive.
Free agency storylines: If you need a primer on what’s about to go down on Sunday, here it is.
Lakers trade back into the draft: What could’ve been a quiet night ends with a second-round pick.
Who is Talen Horton-Tucker? Here’s what we know so far about the Iowa State product, the first Laker born in the 2000s.