Lakers News: Austin Reaves Recalls Feeling Fatigue Amidst Rookie Wall
Austin Reaves, Lakers
(Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

We can sit around and count the mistakes that led to the Los Angeles Lakers’ most recent, and disappointing season. But with the regular season far behind us and the playoffs heating up, it’s more productive — and much more fun — to talk about the few things Kurt Rambis and the rest of the front office did right.

Austin Reaves didn’t look like his best self during the NBA Summer League, which is why it’s surprising that the Lakers took a chance on the undrafted rookie. Reaves happily signed a two-year contract with a team option for the 2022-23 season.

He took it upon himself not to waste the opportunity the Lakers entrusted him with, as he took on the assignments no one else wanted. Former head coach Frank Vogel received the defensively skilled player he was lacking with injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James throughout the season, and he rewarded Reaves’ efforts with a steady role on the roster.

Reaves racked up 19 starts by the end of his first season, where he averaged 7.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 23.2 minutes per game. The larger impact he had on the team, however, was his willingness to take big shots down the line. He earned the nickname “Hillbilly Kobe” for his ability to sink daggers, such as his game-winning 3-point play against the Dallas Mavericks in December.

No matter how excited Reaves was to be a solid fixture in the Lakers’ foundation, the season wasn’t without its challenges, and the 23-year-old hit the famous proverbial rookie wall, he says.

“It’s definitely a thing because college, high school you play at max 36 games, maybe 40 and then the NBA as we all know 82 games. I think it’s more of like the mental part of it, or for me it was at least,” Reaves said. “I caught myself just, not checked out, but just mentally fatigued. And like you said you just gotta man up and push through. I just kept reminding myself that playing basketball for a living, I could be doing a lot of other things, but I’m doing what I love and just mentally tried to push through it and leave everything out there.”

Reaves shined in the first half of the season, but the last two months of play proved to be difficult for the rookie, and he was eventually benched by Vogel after going -12, -16, -20 and +1 in a four-game stretch. Despite the drop in performance, Reaves proved that he can be valuable at least off the bench as he works to improve his stamina in the league.

It seems the constantly changing head coach situation in Los Angeles will continue for longer than anticipated — and not for lack of interest.

The Lakers are taking every precaution to savor the last couple of years they have with James and Davis at the center of their roster. This apparently includes a committee, with voices such as Phil Jackson weighing in.

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