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Austin Reaves discusses running into, battling through rookie wall with Lakers

A late-season slump from Austin Reaves was the latest example of the rookie wall that forced the Lakers guard to battle through it by season’s end.

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Austin Reaves’ stellar rookie season was equal parts surprising and exciting for Lakers fans this year. After flashing signs in Summer League, Reaves impressed the Lakers in the offseason then spent the whole season impressing everyone who played with or against him and those watching him as well.

But late in the season, Reaves ran into the proverbial wall, bringing his momentum to a grinding halt. It led to him getting benched for a pair of vitally important games down the stretch. As frustrating as it was, Reaves rebounded in the team’s final game for a historic triple-double.

After the season, he spoke about hitting that rookie wall and how he managed to battle through it before the end of the year.

“It’s definitely a thing because college, high school, you play, at max, 36 games, maybe 40. Then, in the NBA, it’s 82 games,” Reaves said. “I think it’s more the mental part of it, or for me it was at least. I caught myself, not checked out, but mentally fatigued. You just got to man up and push through. I just kept reminding myself that I’m playing basketball for a living. I could have been doing a lot of other things but I’m doing what I love. Just, mentally, tried to push through it and leave everything out there.”

Prior to being a healthy scratch for losses to the Pelicans and Nuggets, Reaves struggled mightily shooting the ball. From February 25 until March 31 — the game before being benched — Reaves shot just 40.9% from the field and 27.3% from the 3-point line in a span of 18 games. He only averaged 6.4 points in that span despite playing 25.1 minutes per game.

The demands of Reaves were high this season. Not only was he counted upon as an undrafted rookie, he was relied upon for heavy minutes as well. It was entirely predictable he was going to hit a rookie wall, but longer injuries early in the season meant that wall came at a very inopportune time as opposed to mid-season.

The good news is, after the two games off to reset, Reaves closed the season strong, most notably in the form of his 31-point, 16-rebound, 10-assists triple-double in the finale to the Nuggets. It was a strong way to end the season, both giving him momentum heading into the offseason and leaving fans with a lasting reminder of just how impressive a rookie season it was overall for Reaves.

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