Josh Hart looks forward to his return to the Lakers’ lineup; Lonzo Ball is day-to-day

Josh Hart has a plan for his return to the court.

“I want to tie Kobe Bryant’s 40-point stretch when he had it,” Hart said, jokingly. “What was it, eight 40-point games in a row? That’s probably what I’m going to try to accomplish over these next eight games.”

The reporters to whom he spoke laughed. Hart’s coach wasn’t amused.

“That is not a good goal,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “And if he starts playing like that he will be on the bench, he’ll be watching us play defense. Team goals. It is not about individuals.”


Defense, of course, is a hallmark of Hart’s play and something the Lakers have been missing in his absence since he broke the fourth metacarpal bone in his left hand on Feb. 28. The location of the break is still swollen, but Hart has made enough progress that, barring a setback on Friday, he should be available for the Lakers’ game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

“You think this is swollen?” Hart said. “You should’ve saw it before. It was something different. This is good. … Hopefully I won’t get karate-chopped 20 times in the game or something, I don’t know. It’s holding up.”

Hart has been itching to return to the Lakers’ lineup. He wanted to return on Wednesday but wasn’t cleared. Hart finally got to test his hand with some contact on Thursday morning during another light practice for the Lakers, as many have been lately. Walton wants his players fresh for games, and the number of injuries the team has experienced in the last few weeks has made that a difficult task.

Thursday came with updates to several of those situations.

Lonzo Ball had an MRI exam. Isaiah Thomas had arthroscopic hip surgery.

“I just think that is professional sports,” Walton said. “Every team goes through it. The Warriors are going through it right now. Boston is going through it. It’s part of dealing with the type of schedule that we play. It’s why it is so important that our entire team bought into what we are doing, because we need everybody at certain parts of the season to step up and play their role.”

Hart and Ball are listed as questionable for Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Thomas is out for the rest of the season.

Thomas played in 17 games for the Lakers before his hip injury became problematic enough that he needed to seek other treatment options. After his procedure at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, the Lakers announced that Thomas’ rehab was expected to last four months.

Dr. Bryan Kelley from the hospital said Wednesday that it was a minimally invasive procedure to clean inflammatory debris from the joint. Thomas tore his labrum in his right hip on March 15, 2017, and had been attempting a more conservative treatment approach.

Ball sustained a painful contusion in his left knee during Wednesday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. Although it happened in the same knee in which he suffered a medial collateral ligament sprain that kept him out six weeks, Ball wasn’t concerned he re-aggravated the injury on Wednesday. The pain was in a different place.

The MRI exam on Thursday confirmed that the injury wasn’t more serious than a contusion, and Ball would be day-to-day.

When Ball returned from his sprained MCL, he did so on a minutes restriction. Hart is hoping that isn’t his fate.

“It’s not like it’s a ligament or tendon or something like that … where you had to be very cautious with it,” he said. “… I think the bone’s healed, I’ve got hardware in there, so it’s not like it’s going to break again. I think it’s just how much I can tolerate the pain and I just won’t tell them how much it hurts if it does.”



When: 7:30 p.m., Friday

On the air: TV — Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes, Radio — 710, 1330

Update: Despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brilliance, the Bucks are clinging to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. They have a 4.5-game lead over the Detroit Pistons for that spot.

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli