There weren’t many positives to be taken from the Los Angeles Lakers’ contest against the Phoenix Suns on Monday night. One good thing that may have went a bit under the radar was the return of reserve big man Wenyen Gabriel, who had missed the last couple of weeks with a shoulder injury.
Gabriel had become an important part of the Lakers’ rotation with his relentless energy regularly giving the Lakers a boost. He had also developed a nice chemistry with Russell Westbrook with many of his points coming on the receiving end of Westbrook assists.
Thanks to all the injuries the Lakers were dealing with, Gabriel got plenty of court time in his return and after the game, he noted that he feels good and is looking forward to what comes next, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I felt alright. My shoulder is feeling fine. I played 27 minutes so my wind is doing fine too so I’m looking forward to what’s coming next.”
The most important thing for Gabriel is that he feels good and his shoulder is alright. It was a tough game to come back to, but Gabriel looked like his normal self, finishing with four points and six rebounds with three of those coming on the offensive end.
But without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves and Westbrook, it was always going to be an uphill battle for L.A. But Gabriel looked at the game as an opportunity for himself and the remaining Lakers to get in a better rhythm:
“We just had to figure out as a team, figure out how we’re gonna rally and play together, that’s a lot of points we gotta make up for there. And obviously defensively without AD’s presence and Bron it’s something that we knew that it was an opportunity for us, the guys who don’t play a lot of minutes, for us to get more of a rhythm, play together, and obviously for me, a game for me to come back and get some minutes.”
It’s always going to be difficult when role players get thrust into leading roles, which was exactly the case on Monday, especially against a good team like the Suns. But hopefully the Lakers will get some players back and continue building on the momentum they have had recently, something that Gabriel has played a big part in.
Darvin Ham wants to continue building Wenyen Gabriel’s confidence
Prior to going down with an injury, Gabriel was solidifying his spot within the Lakers’ rotation and head coach Darvin Ham had a lot of praise for the young forward.
“He’s able to play both frontcourt positions in terms of power forward and center,” Ham said. “He’s athletic, he’s competitive, he has a defensive mindset, plays above the rim, great hands, plays the right way, plays hard.”
With Ham loving his energy and competitiveness, it is now a matter of building his confidence. “With him playing like that, it’s just about building his confidence,” Ham added. “He tends to get down on himself a little bit when he makes a mistake but at the end of the day, we snap him out of it real quick.
“You got to have a short memory in this league whether you’re doing stuff good or doing something bad, you made a mistake, you got to have a next-play mentality. So it’s been exciting to see him.”
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