Former top-10 choose Stanley Johnson is seizing his alternative with the Lakers — •

LOS ANGELES – The field rating was proof that Stanley Johnson was an element within the Los Angeles Lakers’ win over the Utah Jazz on Monday, with a season-high 15 factors, 5 rebounds and two blocks off the bench. The Lakers thought sufficient of his efficiency that he joined stars LeBron James and Russell Westbrook as the one gamers to take questions within the information convention afterward. The Lakers additionally tweeted about Johnson a number of occasions in the course of the win, together with “#StanleyJohnson x #NBAAllStar.”

For an Orange County, California, child who grew up a Lakers and Kobe Bryant fan, this would appear like a dream come true for Johnson. And it might be if the Lakers resolve to signal the journeyman for the remainder of the season.

“I actually don’t know what they’re going to do. I do not know,” Johnson advised • lately. “It’s as much as [Lakers general manager] Rob [Pelinka] and all of the powers that could be. I simply are available in day-after-day and attempt to give my greatest effort. I really feel like I do know who I’m as a person, with my character, as an athlete with what I can deliver to the desk.

“The NBA is all about alternative. So, the extra alternative you get, the higher possibilities it’s a must to do effectively. And that’s what I consider. The extra alternatives that I get, the higher probability I’ll do effectively.”

Johnson is averaging 6.4 factors and a pair of.6 rebounds in 10 video games with the Lakers, however his imprint has been most heralded on the defensive finish. The Lakers signed the 25-year-old to a second 10-day contract on Monday, which truly is extra like his third since he was initially signed to a hardship exception as a consequence of well being and security protocol issues. That is the final 10-day contract that Los Angeles can signal him to earlier than having to resolve whether or not to maintain him on the roster for the remainder of the season.

Nothing is assured for Johnson, however it will likely be robust for the Lakers to let him go if he continues to make an affect on each ends of the ground. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel stated final week he wish to preserve Johnson, however didn’t supply any ensures earlier than the Jazz sport.

“Now we have to maintain as a lot flexibility with the roster that we will,” Vogel stated. “I consider that’s all that has been communicated between Rob Pelinka and Stanley’s agent. However what I’ve seen in Stanley is he’s one in every of our greatest defenders. He brings nice power, toughness, hustle, physicality and flexibility to the defensive aspect of the ball. He can play small-ball heart and actually change on the perimeter. He takes [pick-and-roll] motion to vary the sport just a little bit. There’s a lot that he brings to the desk on [the defensive] aspect.”

Los Angeles Lakers ahead Stanley Johnson reacts to a play in the course of the fourth quarter towards the Utah Jazz at Crypto.com Enviornment on Jan. 17 in Los Angeles.

Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Pictures

Contemplating Johnson’s roller-coaster NBA profession to date with 4 groups in seven years, he’s definitely grateful for his alternative with the Lakers whatever the ultimate consequence.

The 2015 Pac-12 Convention Freshman of the 12 months averaged 13.8 factors and 6.5 rebounds throughout his lone season on the College of Arizona. There have been hopes Johnson would flip right into a star when the Detroit Pistons chosen him with the eighth total choose within the 2015 NBA draft. The 6-foot-7, 245-pounder didn’t dwell as much as expectations, nevertheless, averaging 7.1 factors and three.5 rebounds as primarily a reserve with the Pistons from 2015 to 2019. On Feb. 7, 2019, Johnson was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, who performed him sparingly the remainder of the season.

Johnson says he realized from his errors on a younger and struggling Pistons staff.

“I really feel like I might have been higher in quite a lot of locations speaking with everyone, not being afraid to ask for assist that I wanted,” Johnson stated. “Clearly, being actually 19, 20 years outdated, transferring to Detroit and simply having the correct individuals round you always and specializing in the correct issues, it’s troublesome. Particularly whenever you acquired a bunch of younger males collectively with out an older voice that’s in there that’s been by way of it.

“I can’t say for one second that anyone who I’ve ever been round there or after I was there, we by no means ever stated, ‘F it.’ Even once we have been shedding, we practiced greater than any staff within the league and we educated and all that stuff like that. It wasn’t a detrimental factor; simply there’s different athletes doing the identical factor which can be placing in some very concentrated work and I don’t suppose we have been. I don’t suppose I used to be.”

Johnson’s subsequent cease was with the Toronto Raptors, the place he averaged 3.8 factors and a pair of.2 rebounds per sport on 38% taking pictures from the sphere from 2019 to 2021. He additionally performed three video games for Toronto’s G League Raptors 905. Although Johnson as soon as scored a career-high 35 factors for Toronto and was considered as a defensive stopper, his tenure concluded with some robust love from Raptors president Masai Ujiri and different members of the entrance workplace.

Johnson says he wanted that career-altering honesty from Ujiri.

“That was an actual sincere dialog. That’s what I wanted to listen to,” Johnson stated. “Within the NBA, honesty just isn’t at all times the at the start factor that individuals need to offer you as a result of it’s not the simplest factor to say to individuals which can be professionals. I’ve been enjoying basketball all my life. I’m fairly rattling good at basketball, so to inform me I’m unhealthy at basketball, it’s a tough dialog to have with an expert athlete.

“It takes a distinct kind of man to let you know that to your face and never in a pessimistic method, in a constructive method. What are you going to do? Are you going to take [it poorly] or are you going to do one thing about it? I felt like I need to do one thing about it. I’m 25 years outdated. I do know I’ve been lucky. I’ve been within the league for a very long time as a result of I acquired in early, however I’m not even wherever near my prime, wherever near the participant that I could be in my life.”

Johnson subsequent signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bulls, however they waived him after 4 preseason video games on Oct. 16, 2021. He performed six video games with the G League South Bay Lakers earlier than the Bulls signed him once more to a 10-day contract on Dec. 9, 2021. However two days later, he entered the league’s well being and security protocols and his deal expired earlier than he suited up for one sport with Chicago. Johnson stated an NBA staff wished to signal him to a 10-day contract with the hardship exception, however that handed by whereas he was quarantining.

By way of all of it, Johnson stated he by no means acquired depressed, stored working and relied on his religion in God.

“Even in the course of the worst days, I’m nonetheless so blessed,” Johnson stated. “Who would’ve identified that this is able to’ve been my job for thus lengthy? I met so many superior individuals with basketball. I can’t take it as all detrimental.

“That is the most effective s— that’s ever [been] in my life. [This is] some optimistic s—. Clearly, it’s not going as the best way I had deliberate, however I by no means went again house like, ‘Hey, F this, I don’t actually need to do that anymore.’ The very fact is thru this, I used to be nonetheless getting paid to work out and play basketball every day.”

Stanley Johnson (proper) and Chaundee Brown Jr. (left) of the South Bay Lakers throughout a sport towards the Oklahoma Metropolis Blue on Nov. 21, 2021, at UCLA Well being Coaching Middle in El Segundo, California.

Adam Pantozzi/NBAE by way of Getty Pictures

Johnson truly anticipated to play for the South Bay Lakers starting on Jan. 5, not the Los Angeles Lakers. However on Dec. 24, 2021, he was accomplished quarantining and landed his “greatest Christmas current ever” by signing a 10-day hardship exception with the Lakers, together with veteran guard Darren Collison.

Whereas Collison’s addition acquired extra consideration, Johnson made an even bigger affect with seven factors and a 3-pointer in 27 minutes towards the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day. Carrying a Lakers jersey additionally fulfilled a childhood dream for the Southern California native.

“Watching the Christmas Day sport was in all probability one in every of my first reminiscences of basketball,” Johnson stated. “Watching Kobe within the playoffs in 2006 was one of many the explanation why I wished to be within the NBA. Rising up, you don’t understand how the method works. You simply suppose you’re going to go to the NBA and play for the Lakers. Actually, that’s how I imagined myself as an NBA participant as a baby.

“Now, clearly, whenever you become old you’re like, ‘Properly, there’s 20 different groups,’ and stuff like that. You actually don’t care which method you get into it. However as in my love for basketball, the Lakers are a part of that enjoyment as a child. It’s like a kind of childhood issues that, simply rising up in LA, rising up in California, I’ve at all times been like that.”

Three weeks later, Johnson’s position has continued to develop with the struggling Lakers. He listened to James’ recommendation to be aggressive taking the ball to the basket. Towards the Jazz, Johnson made 6 of seven two-point subject objective makes an attempt, together with a key layup over three-time defensive participant of the yr Rudy Gobert, and scored 10 key fourth-quarter factors. Johnson additionally continued to make his presence identified on the defensive finish.

And together with the Lakers’ Twitter account, James and Westbrook have been impressed, too.

“Folks neglect that he was a top-10 choose in our league and he’s solely 25 years outdated,” James stated. “He’s a man that’s hungry and desires to exit and show that he belongs within the NBA and making an attempt to stay right here to remain for so long as he can.”

Stated Westbrook: “All through his profession, he’s had some ups and downs. To see him flourish in nights like that is massive, not only for him, however for his confidence and the way he’s capable of type of stand up to and the entire battles he’s been by way of to date.”

The clock is ticking on Johnson’s contract with the Lakers. Star ahead Anthony Davis and veteran ahead Carmelo Anthony might be again in uniform for Los Angeles quickly.

However whether or not it’s the Lakers or some other place, Johnson says, he will likely be prepared.

“I’ve been doing quite a lot of engaged on myself and dealing on my sport, and sooner or later in time it’s going to lead to successes,” Johnson stated. “When that comes, it’s as much as God and the way he works in your life and the way he’s labored your thoughts. So, I at all times felt like sooner or later in time I’d be ready, however you understand how alternative is — it’s a must to be prepared for it. You’ve the chance after which, increase, it occurs collectively like that.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA author for •. He used to have the ability to dunk on you, however he hasn’t been capable of in years and his knees nonetheless damage.

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