Most of the Los Angeles Lakers have returned from their bouts with the coronavirus (COVID-19) — including Austin Reaves, whose impressive rookie season continues.
Reaves quickly became an important role player for L.A. with his impact clear both to the naked eye and upon a look at the stats. He averaged 5.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists, playing 20.2 minutes off the bench in his first 19 games for the Purple and Gold.
However, he shoots 37.8% from behind the 3-point line, the third-best percentage among the Lakers who have played at least 10 games in 2021-22 (and not including Dwight Howard’s nonsensical 75% from deep on the season).
Moreover, Reaves is the only player with whom L.A. records a defensive rating below 100 (98.8). The Lakers outscore their opponents by 10.5 points per 100 possessions when the 23-year-old guard is on the floor.
And, perhaps most importantly, they have gone 14-5 when the rookie spent at least a minute in play — and 5-14 when he did not.
Reaves continues leaving his mark on the Lakers even though he’s already endured two two-week breaks from basketball — the first caused by a hamstring injury and the second, by COVID-19.
“It’s tough. With the COVID, I was out for 11 days and wasn’t able to really do much,” the Oklahoma alum said of his most recent time on the sidelines.
“So that was a little tougher than the hamstring issue, at least the hamstring issue I was able to be in the gym and shoot and do stuff like that. But you just got to stay mentally prepared, just locked into whatever the team is trying to do.”
As for the Lakers’ impressive record with him on the court, Reaves said he only learned about the numbers recently, because he doesn’t own a Twitter account. But, he added, “it means a lot” for him to be able to help L.A. win games.
“Someone mentioned it to me last night when I was leaving the gym, but I don’t have Twitter so I don’t really see a lot of the other things that everybody else sees.
“But it means a lot, but like I said, I just want to win basketball games and help the team be successful so that’s the main goal and that’s what I’m trying to do moving forward.”
Reaves wanted to emulate Alex Caruso’s success after joining Lakers
Reaves couldn’t possibly avoid comparisons to Alex Caruso considering he follows a similar path to the former Lakers guard.
Before he left L.A. last summer, Caruso had also gone from failing to have his name called out on the NBA Draft night to becoming a Lakers success story. The now-Chicago Bulls guard has even said Reaves might be “farther along” than he was in his first NBA season, as it took him two years to start making regular appearances for the Purple and Gold.
Reaves said he obviously knew about Caruso’s journey in L.A., adding he wanted to follow in the five-year veteran’s footsteps when it comes to “doing the right basketball plays at all times” for the Lakers.
“Yeah, he was very successful, everybody knows,” Reaves said. “He made the right basketball play at all times and did the right things and played as hard as he possibly could and that is something that I wanted to do coming in. I knew we had a lot of talent, a lot of guys that could score the basketball and that aspect, I was just trying to bring the other side of it, play defense, hustle, all the things I mentioned earlier.
“So yeah, that was something that I looked at and thought I could bring to the table.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!