One of the biggest surprises during the Los Angeles Lakers’ postseason run last season was the play of forward Rui Hachimura. Rob Pelinka and the Lakers front office traded for Hachimura prior to the trade deadline in hopes that head coach Darvin Ham and the coaching staff could unlock his potential next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
While he showed flashes down the stretch of the season, he turned into one of the Lakers’ most reliable players in the playoffs and was rewarded with a new three-year contract in the offseason. Now the pressure will be even greater for Hachimura to deliver and he understands this, which is why he worked extremely hard this offseason alongside LeBron himself.
“He parlayed that this offseason with really incredible work,” Pelinka said at the Lakers’ recent press conference. “He spent most of his time training with LeBron. I think that was really intentional.
“I know the coaching staff and front office and days where we had some individual work in here. He’s playing with an extremely high level of confidence and belief. I think his strength and his athleticism look like they’re at a different level.”
Hachimura continuing the growth which he showed in the playoffs would be huge for the Lakers’ success overall and putting in the work in the offseason is key to that. The fact that Hachimura realized this as well and worked with the player who has had a longer run of high-level play than anyone in NBA history bodes well and Darvin Ham even noted that LeBron has taken to calling him his ‘understudy.’
“Rui has been becoming (chuckles), we were laughing. Bron calls him his understudy,” the Lakers coach added. “He’s been with him, to Rob’s points, from individuals and communication, he’s been with him all summer as much as possible. I think that’s a great thing. He’s setting himself up not just to have a long career. But a long career at an extremely high level.”
There is no better player to learn from and work with than LeBron James and Hachimura has set himself up to take another leap this season. The success of these role players will be crucial to the Lakers’ success and Hachimura is looking like someone who will be a major positive this year.
Lakers’ Rui Hachimura reveals how he got into basketball
Hachimura committing to working hard all summer with James clearly shows the love and dedication the Lakers forward has to the game of basketball. But growing up, he didn’t even want to play the game.
Hachimura recently revealed that he preferred playing baseball as a kid, but the kids really wanted him to play basketball because he was tall and athletic. The Lakers forward said that they were so annoying he finally relented and wound up going to one practice where he fell in love with the game and the rest is history.
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