While LeBron James, Anthony Davis and D'Angelo Russell have had strong showings in the opening week of NBA action, Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura have not.
The latter has been relegated to the bench this season and shot 3-10 from the field on opening night. He only played in two shifts against Phoenix and was mediocre against Sacramento while suffering a left eye contusion during the game, forcing him to miss the matchup versus the Magic on Monday.
The mid-range efficiency and green light to score and be that offensive threat coming off the bench has yet to materialize. Instead, we've got a player missing good looks and getting beat on defense against top-level wings and guards.
While Hachimura's slow start is puzzling, Reaves' play has been alarming.
You know Austin Reaves is struggling when he can’t covert his herky, jerky reverse layups.— Lakers Legacy (@LakersLegacyPod) October 31, 2023
Yeah, Wendell Carter had a hand on his back & this probably could have been called for a foul, but AR never lets contact bother him and is the king of and1s - so you know he’s off his game pic.twitter.com/nYjH9iBQJ6
His offense has been absent and his defense has caused him to be targeted by opposing teams. Against Orlando, Markelle Fultz kept attacking the basket on Reaves and, after another layup gave the Magic a four-point edge midway through the fourth, Ham sat Reaves for the rest of the night.
Reaves had a similar experience in the previous game against Sacramento. With the game tied and heading to overtime, Ham benched Reaves and never brought him back.
Despite two of the Lakers' key re-signings not panning out early on, Darvin Ham explained why he isn't worried about them in the long term during his pregame presser before the Magic game.
"I just think it's one of the circumstances of an NBA season. They're working the same, they're getting good looks," Ham said." Just give them confidence and belief that you know they've done it before and they'll do it again. Just kind of weather the storm, so to speak. I wish they'd hurry up. We only have 78 games left."
It's tough balancing winning now with doing what you think is needed for long-term success. To play devil's advocate, why didn't Ham keep Reaves in back-to-back games if he trusted him? Wouldn't you want him to work through it? It wasn't like any Lakers guard was shooting lights out enough to justify a change.
These are the tough decisions Ham has to make and the conversations he has to have with Reaves and Hachiumra to ensure their confidence isn't shaken while they work through these slumps and find their footing.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.