Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has consistently been switching up his starting lineup this season due to injuries, with the most recent change being inserting rookie Austin Reaves against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
It marked the first career start for Reaves, who did not have a great game on the stat sheet, finishing with six points, one rebound, and three assists in 33 minutes, but still found a way to make an impact on the game by doing the little things as he usually does, such as recording a pair of blocks.
Going from an undrafted rookie to a starter alongside the likes of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook is something that Reaves won’t forget.
“It’s a pretty amazing moment for me,” Reaves said after practice on Saturday. “Not a lot of people thought I would be in this situation to begin with but to get the start was really the icing on the cake so far. Hopefully there’s many more moving forward and a lot of years playing.”
Reaves also revealed that there were actually points earlier in the season that he was supposed to start, although other factors got in the way.
“Like you said, there was a couple times earlier in the year where they would tell me and then sometime before game time or whatever it would get changed for some reason. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who starts honestly, I just want to play well in the game. I think one was the hamstring, one was I think it was in Minnesota when I got COVID so it was just unfortunate situations.”
Part of the reason that Reaves started was because Avery Bradley, who is the Lakers’ other defense-first guard, was out with a minor knee injury. With Bradley expected to return soon, it will be interesting to see if Vogel sticks with Reaves in the starting lineup or goes back to the veteran.
Vogel said after practice on Saturday that while he was pleased with the defense his starting unit brought against the Clippers, they still have work to do offensively.
Overall though, Vogel was pleased with Reaves’ play in his first career start.
“He played really well. Not perfect, but he continues to prove himself to me and to our coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball in particular. The block he had on Reggie Jackson was super impressive and he does a good job moving his feet, keeping his body in front of the ball and he’s really long as a defensive guard. So he continues to earn minutes with defensive play and obviously offensively, he’s got the complete skillset to play with the ball or without the basketball. So I thought he played really well for his first start.”
Reaves envisions role with Lakers beyond this season
While Reaves is focused on turning this season around, he also said that he envisions a role with the Lakers beyond this season since they were the ones to give him a chance in the NBA.
“Yeah, for sure, but like I said, I like to stay in the moment. I definitely think about playing many years in the NBA, hopefully here with the way that they’ve embraced me and gave me the opportunity. I definitely think about it in that aspect, but at the end of the day, we can’t really control that right now. We can really just control what you’re doing right now.”
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