Without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook available on Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers predictably faltered against the Golden State Warriors.
It was the eighth consecutive loss for the Lakers, who have nothing left to play for after being eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the week. However, with the Big 3 out against the Warriors it presented an opportunity for the younger players to showcase themselves ahead of the summer.
Austin Reaves drew the start against Golden State and had a solid game, scoring 12 points and providing his usual brand of defense. Reaves was coming off a good showing against the Phoenix Suns, but prior to that, he was actually benched for two games.
There was no injury reported, but Reaves still respected head coach Frank Vogel’s decision to have him ride the bench a couple games.
“Mentally I’ve been good, physically I feel good. As a competitor, you always just want to push through even when you’re tired. Everybody at this point is probably a little bit fatigued. And then the two DNPs, you want to play but it’s the coach’s decision. He played the guys that he thought that would win the game and I respect that,” Reaves said.
“So from that standpoint, I always want to play, but if there’s another opportunity for us to be successful then it is what it is. But I feel good now, got a little rest in that time period and feel good.”
Reaves also expressed disappointment with how the season played out as a whole.
“For sure. At the end of the day, playing or not playing, the objective is to win basketball games. That’s the main goal and for us to have the year that we’ve had sucks. But it is what it is and you can’t look back and dwell on it, you just go into the summer and do the necessary things to get better as an individual, as a group, and then come back stronger next year.”
Before the game against the Warriors, Vogel explained the decision to sit Reaves for a couple of games was because he and the coaching staff believed he was looking fatigued.
“Hopefully, he has a strong finish. I thought he played extremely well in the Phoenix game. He had really, in our coaching staff’s opinion, worn down with the heavy minutes he was playing as a rookie. These guys are used to playing 30 games a year and to play as many as he’s played and the minutes he’s playing, you could just see all his shots were short. He just wasn’t having the same burst, so those two games off I think really benefited him. He had live legs in that Phoenix game, so we’re hoping to see a strong finish for him.”
There might be some merit to that as Reaves was struggling shooting the basketball, oftentimes missing short from beyond the arc. Those kinds of misses usually indicate tired legs, but that was not the case after the games he sat as his jumper looked much more fluid and on balance.
Because the Lakers are not making the postseason, it would make sense to try and feed Reaves all the minutes and reps he can handle in their final two games of the 2021-22 season. Los Angeles is going to need to rely on minimum contracts to fill out the roster again, so having someone like Reaves on a cheap deal is going to go a long way in how they build out the team.
The Purple and Gold hold their final remaining home game on Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder and that would be a prime matchup for Reaves to stretch his wings.
Lakers waive Trevor Ariza, open up roster spot
The end of the season is the perfect time for teams to use any open roster spots on players that could turn into something down the line. The Lakers followed this trend when they waived Trevor Ariza, opening up a spot in the process.
As for who the Lakers might add, the best possible course of action would be to convert Wenyen Gabriel’s two-way deal into a standard one as he has earned it. Conversely, L.A. could look at the South Bay Lakers roster and add someone there.
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