ONTARIO — He may have walked with a noticeable limp as he made his way around the locker room, but Wesley Johnson vowed he’ll recover soon from a strained tendon in his left foot.
Despite missing Lakers’ 90-88 win Monday over the Denver Nuggets at Citizens Business Bank Arena, Johnson is expected to return when the team plays Thursday against the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas.
“It’s alright,” Johnson said. “It’s not as bad as everyone thinks it is. I would think I would probably try to play. But they’re telling me to make sure it’s 100 percent before I go out there.”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni struggled offered a sense of how Johnson injured his foot. But Johnson vividly remembers it happening when he threw a pass to forward Nick Young for a dunk with 7:48 left in the first quarter of the Lakers’ eventual 97-88 loss Sunday to the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.
“I told him I should’ve just laid it up,” Johnson said, laughing regarding his conversation with Young. “My foot had one of those awkward moments. I had one of those tweaks and started feeling it.”
But Johnson didn’t leave the game right away. After the play that caused his injury, Johnson missed a 22-foot jumper, committed a turnover and grabbed a rebound before leaving for good with 3:59 remaining in the first quarter.
Whenever Johnson returns, there’s plenty of areas for him to fix.
Through two games, Johnson has appeared noticeably more assertive in past season, but perhaps to a fault. Johnson posted two points on 1 of 3 shooting in 11 minutes in the Lakers’ preseason win Saturday over Golden State, and followed up with two points on 1 of 5 shooting in eight minutes against Denver before leaving the court to care for his foot.
But D’Antoni spent part of Monday’s practice going over film with Johnson and emphasizing that he has plenty of qualities that makes the team better.
“His athleticism, his length, his ability to run the floor, spread the floor, make quick dives,” D’Antoni said. “His unselfishness.”
Johnson sounded appreciative of D’Antoni’s words.
“It means a lot. I know the shots and percentages will be fine and they’re coming,” Johnson said. “I just think it was just coming with the preseason jitters and getting back you’re your flow. It’ll get better with time.”
D’Antoni also attributed Johnson’s shooting problems to his anxiousness. It sounds as if D’Antoni emphasized his indifference toward Johnson’s shooting percentage while providing positive reinforcement with hope that he relaxes.
Will D’Antoni’s supports do that for Johnson?
“Yeah, a lot,” he said. “All the coaches are saying the same thing. They said my presence has been helpful for everybody. I think it goes a long way. I’ll be fine.”
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