After months and months of speculation and pleas from fans, the trade the Lakers front office completed this week was one that came out of nowhere. Improbably, Rui Hachimura had never been linked to the Lakers this season as a trade target, a truly remarkable feat considering how many players had been mentioned since last summer.
While Rui did not play in Tuesday’s game for the Lakers, he was present in Los Angeles, having gone through a pregame workout before making his debut on Wednesday. Prior to the game, Vice President of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka spoke to the media about acquiring Hachimura.
Rob Pelinka said the Rui Hachimura trade was “an opportunity to strike early” in a mostly dormant trade market so far but added, “it doesn’t mean our work is finished.”— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 25, 2023
Rob Pelinka introducing Rui Hachimura, says: “Doesn’t mean our work is finished.” pic.twitter.com/fYtsPQrSCQ— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) January 25, 2023
After months and months of posturing not just from the Lakers but the league as a whole, the deal for Rui signaled the unofficial start of trade season in the weeks prior to the deadline...though no other deal was completed in the days after Hachimura swapped coasts.
For the Lakers, this deal also represented swapping out a player in Kendrick Nunn — turning a piece of their overloaded guard depth for a wing in its depleted positional rotation. It should be little surprise, then, that head coach Darvin Ham is eager to see Rui on the court.
Darvin Ham on Rui Hachimura: “I’m super-duper excited. … I’ve always been impressed by him. Just a multi-faceted, strong, athletic, skilled young player. … I think he’s gonna bring a lot.”— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) January 25, 2023
Hachimura will join LeBron James and Wenyen Gabriel as the only non-centers over 6’6" on the roster. It’ll alleviate a particular burden on Jamess as the only perimeter-based forward.
James did express some excitement after Wednesday’s game to the Clippers, though it was certainly a muted response after another frustrating defeat.
When LeBron takes the court next to Hachimura on Wednesday and has a wing alongside him for the first time this season, it’ll likely that excitement will grow. Regardless, there’s plenty to go around after the Lakers’ first — and hopefully not last — in-season trade of the year.