Lakers’ Wesley Johnson ready for ‘most important’ season of his life
On Thursday, the Lakers officially introduced forward-guard Wesley Johnson at their practice facility in El Segundo.
“I think this is one of the most important seasons of my life,” said Johnson, who struggled to live up to expectations through his first three years in the league. “I’m coming out to show you the real Wes.”
Johnson was the fourth overall draft pick in 2010 by the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves. He was traded last year to 25-win Phoenix Suns.
“It just didn’t fit me. It didn’t suit my style of play,” said Johnson of his stints in Minnesota and Phoenix. “It just wasn’t my time.”
Johnson averaged 9.0 points a game as a rookie in Minnesota, dipping to just 6.0 in his second year. He showed some flashes in Phoenix with the Suns, averaging 13.1 points a game through March and April.
Now he’s a Laker.
“This is a dream come true,” Johnson said. “Since I was probably like eight or nine years old, I wanted to be a Laker. I can’t even in words say how excited I am to be here.”
How did a kid from Corsicana, Texas grow up a Lakers fan?
“My mom, she loved Magic [Johnson],” he said. “My mom was always watching the Lakers, it just jumped on me.”
Now, Wesley Johnson will play alongside Kobe Bryant, who joined the Lakers when Johnson was “eight or nine years old,” Johnson recalled.
Johnson, 26, shares an agent with Bryant, as well as new Laker Chris Kaman; they’re represented by Rob Pelinka. Bryant has been supportive of Johnson since the 6-foot-7 swingman came into the NBA out of Syracuse.
“A guy like Kobe, his mentorship, reaching out and saying different stuff to me throughout the years I’ve been in the league, has meant a lot,” Johnson said.
The opportunity to play for the Lakers was an easy call when he hit free agency.
“Other teams [called] but it was a no-brainer for me to come,” he said, even though some teams had more money to offer. “Just being part of the organization, it meant more to me to be here to play for something like this than playing for the money.”
Team spokesman John Black reported that General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Johnson can “develop into a Michael Cooper or Trevor Ariza-type player.”
Can he become a lockdown perimeter defender for the Lakers?
“Without a doubt,” Johnson said. “No problem.”
The Lakers badly needed to add youth, athleticism and length to the roster. Along with Nick Young and the return of Jordan Farmar, the team is hoping to be an improved team with a healthy Bryant.
Johnson will wear his high school number (11) with the Lakers. He signed a one-year deal that will pay $916,099.
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