Rui Hachimura has had an odd first full season with the Los Angeles Lakers, mostly due to an ever-evolving role. His uncertain role resulted in some up and down play, but it is hard to gauge where he fits.
Head coach Darvin Ham relegated Hachimura to a bench role, then to a starting role, back to the bench, etc. The 26-year-old faced a lot of adjustment and change this season but with Jarred Vanderbilt and Cam Reddish currently sidelined, Hachimura once again is a starter.
The former Gonzaga Bulldog followed up his two-point performance on Thursday with 21 points on Friday in the win against the New Orleans Pelicans. However, teammate Anthony Davis credits Hachimura for taking the challenge defensively after matching up with Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
“Yeah, he’s taking on the challenge,” Davis said of Hachimura. “We put a lot of pressure on Rui to guard. Tonight he had Zion and BI, two scorers. Like you said, it’s a team defense, it’s not just on one guy, we don’t leave one guy on an island. But we’ve had matchups all year where we put him on the opposing team’s best wing player and he’s been good. He’s definitely improved. He’s more than capable of playing defense and giving us what he gave tonight on the offensive end. Anytime we have an assignment that we feel he can guard, we’ll put it on him and make sure that we help him on the backside.”
With defensive personnel lacking due to injuries, Hachimura is stepping into the challenge of guarding some of the best wings and bigs in the league. Due to his frame, he has the capability to stay with these scoring threats, and it is good to see that he is embracing that challenge.
During last season’s postseason run, Hachimura matched up with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic in the Western Conference Finals and held his own. Davis is not asking of him to fill that Vanderbilt role, but simply take pride in whoever he is guarding helps and Hachimura is doing so since re-entering the starting lineup.
Rui Hachimura credits Phil Handy for encouraging him to ‘just shoot’
Coming off an impressive shooting postseason with the Lakers, Hachimura came into this season looking to build off that. During the summer, he worked out plenty with LeBron James and assistant coach Phil Handy, improving on his game. His shooting numbers have been a bit up and down, but Hachimura credits Handy for encouraging him to ‘just shoot.’
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