Lakers' Wesley Johnson is 'fine' after playing small ball

Wesley Johnson swears he's OK. He laughs when told he survived the NBA equivalent of back-to-back car accidents.

The slender Johnson just ended a two-day trek through burly land, guarding brawny Pacers power forward David West on Tuesday and the Grizzlies' 7-foot-1 center Marc Gasol on Wednesday.

Someone gets the bad assignment on defense if Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni wants to go small ball, and Johnson was that guy this week.

"I'm actually fine," Johnson said Wednesday after the Lakers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, 108-103. "I've got normal tiredness from running but body-wise from the banging, I'm fine."

He said he didn't mind being one of the exhibits in Pau Gasol's criticism of D'Antoni's small-ball concept.

After the Lakers were outrebounded by 20 in a 20-point loss Tuesday to Indiana, Gasol was asked how the smaller Johnson would fare against beefy Memphis forward Zach Randolph if D'Antoni kept going with small ball.

"Good luck, right?" Gasol said, sighing. "Let's see what happens … if Wes continues to start or if we actually try to match up and utilize our size because we do have guys with size that can do well."

Not only did Johnson continue to start but he ended up guarding Marc Gasol the next night instead of the slightly smaller Randolph.

Johnson didn't do poorly and actually outscored Marc Gasol, 18-14, but there was one play where he was merely a remora on a shark, flicked away comically when Gasol posted him up and scored with ease.

Johnson is 6-7 and weighs 215 pounds. Marc Gasol is six inches taller and 50 pounds heavier.

That's small ball in a small nutshell. It can look good on offense but bug-vs.-windshield bad on defense.

Not that Johnson is counting bumps and bruises.

"They have to guard me as well, so I'm just going to run," he said. "I look at it as an opportunity to have a disadvantage on them. If we did go small, we'll run on them and maybe they have to switch their lineup in our favor and they have to play small."

Johnson, 26, has floated in and out of success this season on a one-year contract with the Lakers.

There are games in which he disappears completely and then games where he makes an impact by hitting four three-pointers, such as Wednesday against the Grizzlies.


Forward Xavier Henry hasn't played for the Lakers since suffering a knee injury Dec. 29. But Henry played Thursday for their D-League affiliate, scoring 15 points for the D-Fenders in a 121-103 loss to the Texas Legends.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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