With the Lakers having a -74 point differential in the opening quarter of games this season, starting with a 2-5 record and zero wins during their first long road trip, something had to change on Friday.
Coach Darvin Ham decided that change had to start with benching Austin Reaves.
The beloved Newark, Arkansas native has become the latest Lakers wunderkind, having a meteoric rise last year, which led to national media attention, a Team USA spot in the FIBA World Cup and a ridiculous rumor connecting him as a Taylor Swift love interest.
Reaves now finds himself struggling to start the year, averaging just 13.3 points on 43% shooting. Gone are the moments of virality scoring on the league's best players. No more shouting "I'm him" after an offensive onslaught. And defensively, he's been as resistant as a revolving door in preventing opponents from entering the paint.
So, while his benching eight games into the season might look like a sudden fall from good graces, it didn't affect him on the court.
"I'm a competitor," Reaves said postgame after the win. "Truthfully, you don't want to have that conversation. I would love to not have that, would love to have been playing better to not have those conversations, winning as a team. But my parents taught me at a young age that the coach is the coach and his decision, regardless if you agree with it or don't agree with it, you respect that. That's what I did. We had good dialogue back and forth on what we thought we could do better as a unit. As I've spoken about the last two years I've been in the NBA and even before, winning is the main thing.
LeBron finds Austin Reaves for the Lakers to take the lead in the 4th quarter.— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) November 11, 2023
Suns trail 98-103 with less than 8 minutes left.pic.twitter.com/9fot9mIsn3
Reaves finished the night with 15 points on 6-11 shooting and played 35 minutes, with only LeBron James and Anthony Davis playing more for the purple and gold. And with the game on the line, he was on the floor contributing.
"He's just a big time player" James said after the game. "He can fit any role. When you have a guy that can fit any role – starter, come off the bench, play on the ball, play off the ball – it makes it a lot easier on the team and AR can do that. Easy transition for him."
The transition did appear easy for Reaves, but I have many questions following this game.
Is Reaves coming off the bench a long-term solution? Did it even help as the Lakers still found themselves down by nine points after a quarter of play and still used Reaves so much throughout the game? Darvin Ham will have to find the answers or, at the very least, the best course of action to take for Sunday's matchup against the Trailblazers at home as the Lakers look to return to .500 on the season.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.