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Darvin Ham says Rui Hachimura has ‘really benefitted’ from working with LeBron James

Darvin Ham noted how many improvements Rui Hachimura has made this season while working with LeBron James since this summer.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Rui Hachimura performed so well for the Lakers in the playoffs last season that he was rewarded with a three-year $51-million deal in the offseason. The Lakers believed that Hachimura would build on his success in the postseason and become an even more integral part of their team entering this season.

Hachimura felt the same way and made an attempt to improve his game in the summer by spending a lot of time training with LeBron James. The 25-year-old was often spotted in multiple pictures and clips alongside James and Lakers assistant coach and player development guru Phil Handy working on his craft.

The time Hachimura spent with James turned out to go a long way for him as, according to head coach Darvin Ham, Hachimura has really benefited from it. Prior to the Lakers’ game against the Nets last week, Ham detailed the biggest improvements he’s seen in the forward this season:

“I think he’s going out and being more deliberate,’ Ham said. “He’s listening to the coaches, listens to his teammates really, really well. LeBron has taken him under his wing and talks to him all the time about what he should be seeing, how he should be reacting to different things on both sides of the ball and I think he’s really benefitted from that. He spends a lot of time with coach Phil Handy individually watching film…Everyone encourages him. He has a genuine spirit in terms of his approach to the game. He’s been nothing short of amazing since he’s been here.”

What Ham mentioned regarding Hachimura’s improvements — such as his decision-making skills, ability to read and react to plays and approach every game — are intangibles that won’t show up on the stat sheet of every game. But it’s not a coincidence that these intangibles have to do with exercising one’s basketball IQ, which James excels in better than anyone in the league.

As for what’s visible on the stat sheet, Hachimura has been more productive this season for the Lakers, averaging 11.1 points and 3.5 rebounds a game in 35.9% three-point shooting in 23.1 minutes, compared to his first 33 games with the team last season. However, the Japanese native has faced a couple of challenges that have hindered him from taking that leap that the Lakers were hoping for him.

For one, Hachimura has missed 14 games so far this season due to multiple injuries that have caused him to be in and out of the rotation. This has affected his rhythm, which Hachimura himself said is a big part of his game. It’s obviously not an excuse but a challenge that the power forward needs to figure out while he comes off the bench. As Ham reiterated last October, the team feels they can get more out of their super sub offensively off the bench.

True enough, Hachimura has proved that he can impact the game the same way whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. He did it against the Oklahoma City last December, when had his best game of the season by scoring 21 points off the bench.

There was also that game in December against the Timberwolves on the road, when Hachimura stepped in for James in the starting lineup and rendered 18 points in a loss. The potential for Hachimura to take that leap is still achievable and it’s just really a matter of consistency for him at this point.

As the second half of the regular season unfolds, hopefully Hachimura gets to maximize everything he’s learned from James and utilize that to build a consistent rhythm to unleash a version of him we haven’t seen yet this season.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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