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Lakers' Wesley Johnson returns to his natural position of small forward

Lakers' Wesley Johnson returns to his natural position of small forward
Wesley Johnson will move back to small forward this season with the Lakers. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Often last season, the slight Wesley Johnson was stuck playing out of position at power forward for the Lakers.

"He ain't playing power forward anymore," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said, laughing.

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It's welcome news for Johnson to go back to playing his natural position of small forward.

At 6-7, 210 pounds, Johnson doesn't have the size or strength to contend with the Clippers' 6-10, 250-pound Blake Griffin or Memphis' 6-9, 260-pound Zach Randolph.

But Johnson found himself down low wrestling with Griffin, Randolph and other power forwards frequently last season because former Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni liked to use small players on bigger players.

"I'm back on the wing again," a smiling Johnson said Wednesday after the Lakers' second day of training camp. "I get to guard the threes (small forwards), mix it up with the twos (shooting guards).

"It was crazy. I was guarding Blake and banging with Z-Bo (Randolph). That ain't me. Get me on the wing. I'm very glad to be back."

Scott talked about "all the tools" Johnson has to be successful in the NBA.

Scott said Johnson is "athletic, long, quick, fast, jumps out of the gym and can shoot the basketball."

That skill set led to Johnson's being the fourth overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2010 draft out of Syracuse.

But Johnson has never lived up to the lofty expectations for such a high draft choice.

He's on his third team in four years -- Johnson also played for the Phoenix Suns in 2012-13 -- and still trying to find his way.

The Lakers signed Johnson to a one-year contract in 2013 and re-signed him to another one-year deal this summer.

Johnson averaged a career-high 9.1 points last season and shot 42.5% from the field, including 36.9% from three-point range.

Scott said it's time for Johnson, 27, to be the player many thought he could be when he came out of college.

"He has everything that he needs to be a very good player in this league," Scott said. "It's just a matter of me pulling it all out of him. I think this year he's going to surprise some people and have a good year."

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Whether starting or coming off the bench, Johnson said he's ready for that challenge.

He played in 79 games last season for the Lakers, 62 as a starter.

"I'm more confident in myself than I have been since I got into the league," Johnson said. "Basically, I know what to expect. I'm playing for Byron. I worked out with Kobe [Bryant] this summer, and that really just boosted my confidence. It got me back to basics and to what got me here.

"It's going to be a lot of stuff people haven't seen me do and what people want to see me do."

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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