For Wesley Johnson, playing with Kobe Bryant was something that attracted him rather than he saw as a detriment as the Los Angeles Lakers introduced their newest free agent addition at a press conference held at the Lakers practice facility Wednesday afternoon.
“I’ve been friends with Kobe since 2010 after I was drafted,” he said. “He was one of my favorite players to watch growing up and his mentoring has definitely helped me to become the player I am now.”
Clearly Johnson wanted to be in Los Angeles, and that’s a great first step, especially when looking at the Dwight Howard debacle. Johnson, a former fourth overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft grew up a Laker fan and says his mother was probably more excited about him joining the team than he was.
Last year, Johnson played in Phoenix and under interim coach Lindsey Hunter became a starter and as a starter he flourished, scoring a season-high 15 points in a victory over the Atlanta Hawks on March 1, 2013. In a game against the heavily-favored San Antonio Spurs, Johnson hit a game-winning three and helped the Suns win on overtime.
While posing with his No. 11 jersey, Johnson seemed to be in awe of not only his situation, but what stood before him, a chance to change the direction of his career with an established franchise looking to get back to championship form.
“I took less money to be here because I have dreamed of being a Laker since I was 10 years old,” he added. “This is a dream come true and I look forward to learning from veterans like Pau Gasol, Kobe and Steve Nash. I remember practicing with Kobe a couple summers ago and I can’t really repeat too much of what he said, but he definitely wants me to play my best and be a difference maker. I can’t wait to get to camp and get to work.”
Amid rumors earlier this month that the word around the NBA was that no one wanted to play with Bryant, the Lakers may have found an important piece to begin building another championship team. One thing they can be sure of is that Johnson is a player who definitely wants to be there.
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