The Lakers acquired former Washington Wizards wing Rui Hachimura with a clear understanding of his skillset, but also of his potential. Accordingly, assistant coach and renowned player development maestro Phil Handy said that Hachimura reminded him of Los Angeles Clippers wing Kawhi Leonard — a player Coach Handy worked with closely on the Toronto Raptors en route to that franchise’s first and only championship.
Hachimura’s start with the Lakers was rocky as he adapted to a new team, role, environment and level of pressure — the Lakers AND a LeBron team hits different in terms of national attention and microscope — and some of his key weaknesses were on full display.
For example, Rui did not play the second half vs the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 26 after a particularly tough defensive stretch in second quarter (Mo Bamba, who also suffers from similar defensive awareness and positioning issues, also did not play in the second half of that game). It was apparently the right decision as the team rallied from a 26-point deficit to win by three.
However, on the Lakers’ most recent road trip which saw them go 4-1 (4-0 if you include games outside of Crypto.com arena), Hachimura’s defensive development was on full display.
I broke down his impact and growth in the following video:
Naturally, you will expect some ups and down with Rui’s ongoing development on the defensive end — particularly as the pressure ratchets up into the playoffs which can revert players to old habits — but the trajectory of his defensive development has been extremely positive.
That development and possible emergence of a defender who can guard up using his strength and help on the backside rotations using his physical attributes (length, timing, and leaping ability) could be a massive boost for this Lakers squad.
When Coach Phil Handy said Rui reminded him of Kawhi, I think we all assumed on the offensive end, but did he really mean as a two-way player? Only time will tell, but the progress thus far is very promising.
Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, is a youth basketball coach at the U12 level and runs his own in-person and online sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA in which he further combines his movement expertise and fitness training. Combining his background in biomechanics, movement science, and learning science - he consults in a variety of sports including basketball on movement mechanics and skill acquisition. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC and analyzes the Lakers from a skills & medical perspective for Silver Screen and Roll and on his own YouTube Channel. You can follow him on Twitter at @3cbPerformance.