A microcosm of the Lakers season played out before Sunday’s game against the Pelicans. Pregame, head coach Darvin Ham noted that the upcoming starting lineup, which had to be changed once more due to an injury to Cam Reddish, would be the same unit for the foreseeable future.
That new spot did not go to Austin Reaves, but instead Rui Hachimura. And the “foreseeable future” ended up being about eight minutes before Hachimura suffered a calf strain that both ruled him out of that game and Wednesday’s contest against the Heat.
Reaves would finally get the nod in the starting lineup in the second half and performed well, scoring 17 of his 20 points in the final two frames along with six assists. After the game, Reaves spoke about realigning into the starting lineup in the second half and if he felt he meshed well with the group.
“You never want to see one of your teammates, one of your brothers go down with an injury,” Reaves said. “Especially Rui. Me and him have a really good relationship. But, like you said, going out and starting the third, kind of just logging a little more minutes with LeBron and AD both…any time those two are on the court, for me, it helps me just because of how good they are. The point of emphasis, if I was the other coach, would be them two so it gives me opportunities to make plays around that. And I feel like I’ve got a really good feel playing with one another with both of them just because, being here for three years, you pick up things every year to help them help me.”
Since the lineup re-shuffling has commenced in recent weeks, it’s felt like the obvious solution was putting Reaves back with the starters, but that hasn’t come. At this point, through sheer force of nature, Reaves is about the only logical person left to start.
Ultimately, you want your three best players playing together as much as possible and it feels like Ham has overthought things to a certain point. There are some arguments for staggering him and LeBron when they are your only two real ballhandlers left who are healthy, but you can do that while starting them both still.
The Lakers aren’t in a position where they can continue to be cute. The schedule is favorable coming up but, as LeBron warned, that still means they need to execute. Putting your best players on the court together from the jump would send that message on Wednesday and moving forward.
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