Growing up in Los Angeles, the Lakers were naturally Stanley Johnson’s favorite team. And like many LA kids, Johnson held out hope that the Lakers would draft him after his one standout year at Arizona.
That didn’t happen. Johnson’s NBA career instead took him to Detroit, New Orleans and Toronto, places where he regularly saw the court but never blossomed into the lottery pick potential that had been bestowed on him since his high school days at Mater Dei.
Johnson entered the 2021-22 season without an NBA team, a portentous sign for someone entering their seventh season of professional basketball.
Earlier this month Johnson previously signed a 10-day contract with the Chicago Bulls but never got to play after entering COVID protocols shortly after signing.
Then on Friday, Johnson signed a 10-day contract with the Lakers after playing part of this season with the franchise’s G-League team.
In a little more than 24 hours, Johnson went from being out of the NBA to living out his childhood dream, on Christmas no less.
Stanley Johnson says it's a dream come true to get this opportunity back with his hometown team.— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) December 26, 2021
"One of the things that helped me fall in love with basketball was watching the Lakers play... It's something that I'm going to remember for a long time."
Johnson made his debut in LA’s 122-115 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, a game that likely wouldn’t have been as close if not for his presence.
The 25-year-old played 27 minutes, scoring seven points (all in the first quarter) along with one rebound, one assist and one steal. The box score doesn’t come close to reflecting Johnson’s impact on the game, though.
Johnson was tasked with guarding James Harden for much of the night and mostly kept The Beard at bay.
Johnson’s defense and overall energy was a major catalyst in the Lakers making a 17-0 fourth quarter run and eventually tying the game with under a minute to go.
Johnson took a backseat on offense as the game wore on; it’s clear that his defensive energy is his ticket to a longer stint with the Lakers.
If Johnson can continue to bring the same level of effort as he did Saturday, there’s good reason to believe the Lakers brass will want him around.
Johnson’s next game with the Lakers will be on New Year’s Eve against Portland. Johnson potentially face former Arizona guard Brandon Williams, who signed a 10-day contract with the Trail Blazers Saturday.