Austin Reaves’ two seasons in Los Angeles have featured a lot of changes and new faces. In fact, he’s been one of the few constants for the team over that span.
He’s seen lots of bad Lakers basketball and, more recently, lots of good Lakers basketball. On Friday, he played a pivotal role in one of the more fun wins of the season as they overcame a brutal third quarter to win going away in the fourth.
Reaves played a big part in that victory, scoring 18 points with five rebounds off the bench with 14 of those points coming in the second half. His backcourt mate and new teammate D’Angelo Russell led the team in scoring with 28 points with an explosive fourth-quarter performance.
After the contest, Reaves talked about what Russell and what he feels makes him so productive.
“He’s a really good basketball player that plays the game the right way,” Reaves said. “You don’t really see him too many times, in the midst of the game, making a wild play. He’s very under control, plays at his own pace. Like I said, he’s just super talented. The shots he was hitting in the fourth (quarter) was ridiculous. You’ve got only a handful of guys that take those shots in those situations.”
You wouldn’t have to squint too hard to interpret that as a shot at Russell Westbrook. Describing Russ as in control and not prone to wild plays would not be particularly accurate.
It should be made abundantly clear, though, that there is very little chance Reaves meant this as a direct shot at Russ. He’s never been that kind of player, teammate or person in his time here. Quite the contrary, actually.
Now, this could more easily be an indirect shot at Westbrook, though. The only point guard Reaves has known in the NBA has been Russ and his erratic play. It’s just objectively true that Russ and D’Lo play the same position in drastically different ways.
While D’Lo and Reaves have not been together for long, the former has already made a notable impact on the latter. In discussing his strong second half, Reaves revealed the encouragement he’s received from Russell.
“Tonight, I made a couple of good plays,” Reaves said. “D’Lo is on my back all the time about staying aggressive and being myself. So, shoutout to him for having the confidence in me and keep boosting me up to make those type of plays.”
It’s again worth noting that D’Lo hasn’t always had the greatest reputation in that regard, with some caveats. He was initially traded from the Lakers at least partially because of his attitude, if you believe Byron Scott (you probably shouldn’t). In Minnesota, Russell’s relationship with Rudy Gobert reportedly soured to an extreme degree, leading to them parting ways with him at the deadline.
It’s only two examples in a growing career for Russell, but hearing this sort of response from Reaves is encouraging. And when it’s two relatively young guards that could be part of the team’s core moving forward, it’s even better news.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.