The Arkansas-to-Lakers pipeline is one that has been full of great rewards for the Lakers. According to Basketball Reference, 56 NBA players all-time have been born in Arkansas and over 10% of those — six in total — have played for the Lakers.
The first two, Jim Barnes and Archie Clark, did not make much of an impact but both Derek Fisher and Glen Rice were a part of title-winning teams, the former establishing himself as one of the most beloved Lakers role players of his generation, if not ever.
The two most recent have been two of the more fun Lakers this season, though, in Malik Monk and Austin Reaves. The two first-year Lakers have been unexpected bright spots this season, becoming two of the most productive players on the roster.
No matter how productive they may be, though, they’re still some of the younger Lakers on the roster and, as a result, are the team’s scapegoats. Partially bonded by their ties to Arkansas and partially by their roles on the Lakers, Monk talked about his relationship with Reaves in a recent piece by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“I feel like we have a chemistry,” Reaves says. “... Even from the start, it’s been just a kind of connection that you can’t really explain.”
Perhaps it’s the geographical tie, having played against one another in both the regional championship and state championship as ninth graders.
“Two motherf---ers from Arkansas, man,” Monk says.
Monk says their dialogue forms the foundation of their success.
“S---, everything,” Monk says. “Ups and downs. Rookie wall. Older guys yelling at the rookies because it’s their fault. Everything they do, it’s your fault out there because they know everything and you don’t and when you mess up, you just got to take it. You got to deal with things like that. I talk to Austin almost every day.”
Even with their mistakes this season, of which there have been relatively few, Monk and Reaves have still formed a fruitful partnership on the court. In a minimum of 100 minutes, Monk and Reaves are second among two-man lineups in net rating at +7.1. Alongside LeBron James, the pair have a net rating of +2.2.
They’ve proven to be a viable duo and one of the most reliable for the Lakers in a season when very little has proven worthy of being relied upon. They’ve earned the approval and trust of both Frank Vogel and LeBron this season to close games. They’ve also given something of a young core — alongside Talen Horton-Tucker — to move forward with potentially, depending on the uncertain future of Monk in Los Angeles.
It’s an unlikely pairing both in terms of neither being Lakers 12 months ago and in terms of their unlikely starting points. But they’ve blossomed into a valuable pairing, whether to rely upon in games or yell at in practice.