Coming into the 2023-24 season, the Los Angeles Lakers had a lot of contenders for the fifth and final starting spot. The early favorite was Rui Hachimura, but Jarred Vanderbilt and Taurean Prince were in the mix during preseason as well.
However, head coach Darvin Ham decided that it was best for Hachimura to come off the bench to get the most out of him offensively. The Japanese forward struggled in the early going with minutes and scoring, and then he suffered a concussion and was forced to miss four games. Since coming back last Wednesday, it seems that Hachimura is finding his groove.
On Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers, Hachimura got the start with LeBron James being sidelined due to injury. In 33 minutes, he scored 19 points, five rebounds and two steals on 6-for-10 from the field and 1-for-3 from 3. Ham was asked about the difference in the forward starting or coming off the bench but doesn’t seem to notice one.
“I just think having Rui [Hachimura] on the floor and aggressive and with an aggressive mentality is the Rui we all prefer. I don’t know if it’s a difference,” Ham said. “He’s had big games off the bench, he’s had big games when he’s asked to be a starter. So I just think the common denominator is him being aggressive and assertive and active on both sides of the ball. Really locking in defensively, coming back, getting big rebounds offensively, not settling, playing with force, shooting the ball when he’s open when it’s swung to him, playing downhill. He’s a multifaceted player that’s incredible. Still young, still developing. He’s come a long way. But even still, there’s a lot of things you can get better at, but we just want an aggressive and assertive Rui Hachimura.”
Ham is always speaking highly of his players and what they can do on the court. He sees what the forward is capable of doing on a nightly basis. With renewed depth, Hachimura is trying to fit in once again, but the last couple of games have been encouraging.
Hachimura’s playoff performance last season was something to behold and earned the respect of Lakers fans after some regular season struggles. But, with him working out with James constantly throughout the offseason, fans were expecting a continuation of his postseason play.
Through 10 games, the 25-year-old is averaging 12.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 55.1% from the field and 38.9% from 3. As Vanderbilt and Gabe Vincent are slowly but surely returning, L.A. is going to need Hachimura’s production to be consistent to be a scoring punch on the bench or starting.
Ham speaks to why Cam Reddish has made most of opportunity with Lakers
Another player who has played well recently is Cam Reddish. Reddish followed up Friday’s performance with 18 points on Sunday and Ham spoke to how he has made the most of his opportunity with L.A.
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