The Los Angeles Lakers embarked on a four-game road trip and it is safe to say that it did not go as planned. L.A. went 1-3, the one win being in the finale on Friday against the Phoenix Suns in the opener of the In-Season Tournament.
It was imperative that the Lakers ended the trip with something positive as they headed back for a three-game homestand. Despite injuries, it was clear that something was not clicking and head coach Darvin Ham acted on that.
In a surprising move, Ham moved Austin Reaves to the bench in favor of Cam Reddish. While surprising, it proved to pay off as Reddish scored 17 points and made five 3-pointers. Reaves also had a quality game with 15 points and seven assists, still playing 35 minutes of action and closing the game.
Understandably, Reaves wanted to stay in the starting lineup but respected the decision from his head coach, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Yeah, I mean for me, I’m a competitor and truthfully, you don’t want to have that conversation. Would love to not have that, would love to be playing better to not have those conversations winning as a team. My parents taught me at a young age that the coach is a coach and his decision regardless of if you agree with it, don’t agree with it, you respect that and that’s what I did. We had good dialogue back and forth on what we thought we can do to be better as a unit and for me, as I spoke about the last two years I’ve been in the NBA and even before that is winning is the main thing.”
Ham did not spring this decision on Reaves as the two had an open line of communication about the lineup change when the team landed in Phoenix:
“We had it last night when we touched down here. We sat down for 15, 20, 30 minutes and just talked. You don’t have to make me feel comfortable, I understand. I see the writing on the wall, I kind of seen it coming. I haven’t played great, I’ve had games here and there and as a team we haven’t played great. Obviously on this road trip, we were 0-3 until now and need to shake things up. To me, I respect the fact that he text me and we had conversation about it and seen eye to eye. And whatever it is that both of us can do to help the team be successful is what we want to do and what I’m willing to do.”
Ham commended how Reaves handled the move and emphasized that it was not a demotion, comparing it to Manu Ginobili on the San Antonio Spurs, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“You know, I feel like everyone was trying to feel their way in the first half and… Let me back up and just say both of those guys are winners, Cam, Austin. AR, when I told him what I was thinking, I talked to my staff about it and everybody agreed that we needed to change up the music a little bit. It wasn’t, first and foremost, it wasn’t a demotion for Austin, it was just a realignment. If anyone remembers those great San Antonio teams, where everyone knew Manu [Ginobili] was a starter. But, sometimes to balance out your lineups, you have to put a player of his magnitude in the reserve role. Now, when the starters sit down and take their break, you’re not totally falling off a cliff, you have balance in the second unit. As deep as we are and him leading the charge and having a chance to quarterback the situation offensively, have the ball in his hands and be able to make plays. He finished with 15 [points] and seven [assists] tonight, it’s beautiful and still played 35 minutes. That was the thing we talked about, his minutes weren’t going to go down, he’s going to finish the game for us. So, it’s just difference between starting or not starting at the tip, but he was phenomenal tonight, huge down the stretch, as well as Cam. Cam’s an elite individual defender, a guy that can guard four, some nights five positions and he can shoot the ball as he demonstrated tonight. We’re happy to have him, have him really embrace us, embrace what we’re teaching him and how we’re working with him, trying to develop him. He’s still a young player with a ton of upside and so, it was a good team win. A lot of what we saw in that second half that has to be our identity, just coming out with aggression defensively, getting off to the races offensively and then when we’re in the half court offensively, playing smart, setting screens, playing with pace, making quick decisions. So, we can get the most out of the talent we’ve accumulated.”
It was a much-needed team win for the Lakers and this lineup change clearly made a significant difference. To simply scrape and claw for a win to salvage this road trip may help with the morale of a team, especially on the road against a Suns team with a lot of firepower.
LeBron James’ shin feeling ‘pretty sore’ after ‘it never loosened up’ in win over Suns
With the Lakers already suffering a lot of injuries to rotational pieces and Anthony Davis, the team could not afford anymore. Sadly, LeBron James took a shot to the shin, which seemed to irritate him. After the win, James admitted that his shin is ‘pretty sore’ and will be something to monitor heading into Sunday.
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