Austin Reaves and Malik Monk have provided the Los Angeles Lakers with some rare moments of joy in the otherwise gloomy 2021-22 season.
Reaves has been one of the current campaign’s wonder stories, making a name for himself as a valuable rotation player after joining L.A. as an undrafted rookie last summer.
The Oklahoma product averages 6.3 points. 2.6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. But a lion’s share of his input doesn’t show up in stats, as he’s been making a difference with his tenacity on the defensive end throughout the season.
Also, Reaves has shown off poise and maturity in key moments of close games, drilling late threes in matchups with the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz earlier this season, which practically sealed much-needed victories for the Lakers.
Meanwhile, Monk has been a force on the offensive side since he joined the Purple and Gold, scoring 12.7 points on 45.8% from the field and 39% from downtown.
The two Arkansas natives have been particularly productive for the Lakers when on the court together. L.A. has outscored opponents by 12.8 points per 100 possessions in the Reaves-Monk minutes this season.
Monk thinks the roots they share helped them develop chemistry on the court.
“I think it’s just our Arkansas connection,” Monk said. “We know how to play great basketball, unselfish basketball. We just know how to play the basketball game the right way. We’re super close because we’re from Arkansas where there’s not that many people.
“Two people from Arkansas on the same team. We take that little bit more prideful and try to go out there and show everybody that we’re not slacking on either end, but yeah, it’s just the Arkansas connection.”
Head coach Frank Vogel recently said he “likes” the lineups featuring Monk and Reaves.
Although Vogel admitted to feeling “a little bit of anxiety” by deploying the youngsters in the starting lineup against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s Golden State Warriors last week, he credited the pair for their role in securing an important win for the Lakers that day.
Monk wants to contribute more when Lakers play without LeBron James
The Lakers fell to the San Antonio Spurs 117-110 on Monday, as they had to cope without both Anthony Davis and LeBron James during the clash. Knee soreness unexpectedly sidelined James again this season, leading to the four-time NBA champion’s 18th missed game of 2021-22.
Monk scored 17 points against the Spurs, but it wasn’t enough to help L.A. secure a win. After the game, the guard said he felt like he didn’t do enough to support his teammates in James’ absence.
“I got to hit a couple more shots. I can’t go 1-for-7 or 8-for-22,” he said. “I take full responsibility on that. Not being LeBron [James], but taking a little bit more of a from when he’s there. But I can’t go 1-for-7.”
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