The loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night was rough on the Los Angeles Lakers for obvious reasons. The team is battling to stay in the playoff picture with LeBron James still on the mend, but it’s been a roller coaster lately.
Fortunately, the Lakers have seen some promising things on the basketball floor, like the play of forward Wenyen Gabriel. He may not light up the scoreboard in the scoring department, but he crashes the boards and has proved useful in the season’s final stretch.
After Friday’s game, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham talked about Gabriel’s impact on the basketball floor and why he kept him in the game the entire fourth quarter against the Mavericks.
“Just his energy,” Ham said of Gabriel. “He has a great nose for the ball. … He tries to defend, he tries to protect the rim. It was just a difficult foul call at the end with the verticality. I don’t know what else they want these players to do in terms of defending the rim. He’s just a spark plug. Another one of our spark plugs. His size, his ability to run up and down the floor. Clean up loose balls and get offensive rebounds, putbacks. He really defends well, and he showed all of that tonight. That’s why we stayed with him.”
Energy and effort have been two things that Ham has tried to emphasize to his players ever since he took the Lakers job last summer. But of course, these are also two things you can’t teach, but Ham gets both from Gabriel.
Gabriel hasn’t been without his struggles this season and has seen his minutes dip, and sometimes he’ll appear to be entirely out of the rotation. Fortunately, he’s had the opportunity to prove himself time and time again. He may not be a total game-changer for the Lakers, but he plays his role and gets the dirty work done, which you can see pleases Ham to no end.
With Anthony Davis having his fair share of injury concerns and the team lacking size, Gabriel will almost certainly continue to get minutes off the bench. However, it remains to be seen whether he can consistently be productive on the floor while avoiding being a liability.
Gabriel is currently averaging 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in just over 15 minutes a game. The soon-to-be 26-year-old has cracked double-digit rebounds three times this season, two of which have been in the last two games.
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