Returns to the court from both Anthony Davis and Lonnie Walker IV in the last week have returned the Lakers to nearly full strength as they ramp up their playoff chase. The “nearly” part is because of Austin Reaves, who still remains out with a hamstring strain.
Both Reaves and Walker were set to be re-evaluated at the same time. The latter’s return to the court in Saturday’s frustrating loss to the Celtics and the former’s absence revealed those results and the Lakers confirmed as much, noting that Reaves would be re-evaluated once more on Thursday.
Austin Reaves will be re-evaluated next Thursday, the Lakers said.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) January 28, 2023
Reaves has not played since Jan. 4 against the Heat, a span of 12 games through Saturday’s loss to the Celtics. He recently said he would return “soon” from his injury. If re-evaluated on Thursday, Reaves could potentially return for that evening’s game against the Pacers or Saturday against the Pelicans.
As deep as the Lakers are in the backcourt, Reaves is unique amongst them in a number of ways. For one, he’s not a point guard and, for two, he can defend, two qualities that much of his fellow guards don’t have. It’s also what led him to become one of the team’s most important pieces early in the season.
Reaves’ return would be the last piece of the roster not available and would further balance things out. He is one of the few guards that can deputize as a wing and provide balance. And the Lakers need all of that they can get with head coach Darvin Ham’s clear (and sometimes frustrating) preference for three-guard lineups.
Regardless of even that, Reaves is simply a good player and the Lakers need as many good players on the court in order to string together victories and move back up into the playoff race.