LeBron James is rightfully getting most of the attention after another 40-point performance in the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory over the Charlotte Hornets. But that win does not come without some help from the role players and maybe the biggest contribution came from Austin Reaves.
The second-year guard shook off his recent slump to finish with 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists to help push the Lakers to victory. He finished 5-of-7 from the field and 2-of-2 from 3-point range after shooting just 4-of-25 in the previous three games.
After the contest, James praised Reaves for shaking off his recent struggles and coming through when the Lakers needed him, via NBA.com:
“At the end of the day, you never get too high, you never get too low, especially when you put the work in. And then you always have another opportunity a couple days later, maybe a day later, maybe a week later, to be able to change the narrative of maybe just yourself. Obviously he knows he could’ve played a lot better and just had a couple games where he didn’t play to his ability, to his own personal goals. Tonight was the complete opposite and we needed everything from him. He’s such a big part of our game and he was great once again.”
For Reaves to have become this important of a piece for the Lakers this quickly is undoubtedly something no one saw coming when he was initially signed to a two-way contract in 2021. And LeBron spoke about Reaves’ journey to where he is now and has complete belief that the young guard will continue to improve:
“If you put it all in perspective about [Reaves] in the start of his career. When he was drafted, I don’t think he was drafted to be in the position that he was thrown into last year. Yeah, he was an undrafted guy. He had to earn his stripes and he didn’t think that he was gonna be thrown into the rotation when he was thrown into the rotation. And not only thrown into the rotation, but then became a huge part of our rotation, and then became someone that we just trusted, to the point that he hit a game-winner in Dallas. And now he’s a staple of everything that we do.
“So the games are just piling up and the best way to handle that is to just try to get as much sleep as you can and recovering. Treating your body and understanding how much of a temple it is. It’s a lot. It’s a lot for anybody, especially coming out of college. He’s handled it like a true professional and he’s only gonna continue to get better and better not only physically, but also more importantly mentally.”
It is easy to forget that Reaves had his contract converted from a two-way to a standard deal just ahead of training camp in 2021 and even then, was not expected to make a huge impact. But injuries forced then-head coach Frank Vogel to give Reaves minutes and he continually produced, ultimately becoming one of the team’s most reliable role players and that has continued into this season.
Reaves is a high-IQ player who plays hard and is always in the right place at the right time. He has clearly made strides this season with his ability to handle the ball and create offense for himself and others, as well as his 3-point shooting. As long as he continues to put in the work and take care of his body, Reaves will stick around the league for a long time.
Austin Reaves credits Russell Westbrook & Phil Handy for helping him break slump
There was likely no one more frustrated about his slump than Reaves, who admittedly is extremely hard on himself and holds himself to a very high standard. But the Lakers guard has the support of his team and a couple of people in particular helped him push through.
Reaves noted that talking to Russell Westbrook and assistant coach Phil Handy helped him a lot. Reaves said that Westbrook relaying his own bad games that he’s been through helped him put things in perspective while Handy told Reaves to simply focus on controlling his energy and mindset.
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