Rui Hachimura’s play for the Lakers this postseason has been pivotal in the team’s success so far, even after Wednesday’s Game 5 loss. Hachimura burst onto the scene in Game 1 to help the Lakers to a win and then repeated those performances moving forward.
His evolution into a useful player in the postseason is not a coincidence, though. The Lakers earmarked Hachimura as someone worth pursuing and, specifically, assistant coach Phil Handy.
In a recent piece by Elliot Teaford of the OC Register, head coach Darvin Ham revealed that Handy reached out to him after the trade to ask to work with Rui.
“Phil texted me and said, ‘Man, let him have Rui,’” Ham recalled the other day. “Phil’s resume speaks for itself. Three-time champion as a coach. All the guys he’s worked with from Kyrie (Irving) to, you know, LeBron, Kawhi (Leonard) – all these guys – Kobe (Bryant) when we started out here as assistant coaches.
“(Handy) does a great job of not just putting guys through workouts but doing things that immediately translate to the game. Court work, film work – all the above. Rui dove right into the fold. I encouraged him. Also, LeBron taking him under his wing, doing a bunch of workouts with LeBron.
“It’s been great for him, a great environment for him.”
Rui has given credit multiple times to Handy during his playoff run. In working with Handy, Hachimura had been prepped what type of shots would be available to him and how to be ready for them.
In this series, for example, Hachimura has been a knockdown 3-point shooter, taking advantage of Memphis leaving him open to pay more attention to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He’s taken advantage of his moment and had his best stretch of games for the Lakers.
And there’s no better person perhaps in the entire NBA for Rui to work with to improve his skills. Seeing the success he’s had in a short time with Phil Handy certainly should have fans optimistic about what could be in store, should Hachimura return in free agency.
If he’s able to take this much of a jump in such a short span with the team and coaching staff, imagine what could be in store with a whole off-season a regular season together. It’s enticing and hopefully something Lakers fans will get to see come to fruition.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.