“Lately he’s just been out there having fun, playing for the joy of trying to win,” Walton said Sunday.
Luke Walton believes Josh Hart is a difference-maker for the Lakers.
The 23-year-old guard has posted inconsistent offensive numbers for Los Angeles this season. But, Walton, the third-year Lakers coach, said Hart impacts the game in ways that don’t appear on the stat sheet after his team’s 120-96 win over the Suns on Sunday.
“He was making winning plays all over the court,” Walton said about Hart’s performance against Phoenix. “I thought it was directly related to how he played: Fighting over screens, tagging on the weak side, getting a steal when they were hurting us early in the game with those rolls to the rim, making the extra pass.
“Everything we always preach about, he was doing those things, and he knocked down a couple shots, too.”
Hart finished the win with six points and two assists in 18 minutes on the floor. Walton said scoring is “not what’s most important” for Hart.
“What’s most important is winning plays and winning games,” Walton said. “I’m sure everybody wants to score but he sure seems — lately he’s just been out there having fun, playing for the joy of trying to win. He’s put together a couple really nice games in a row for us.”
The second-year player out of Villanova has averaged 9.1 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24.2 minutes per game this season. He has shot 45.7 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from 3-point range.
The Lakers will host the Spurs on Wednesday. They’ll carry a 14-9 record into that matchup.