James said the game ball went to Hachimura.
“Game ball definitely goes to Rui for sure,” James said. “I mean, he was all over the floor, not only offensively, but defensively. Big time. A couple big-time blocks, rebounding out of his position.”
Hachimura scored 20 points off the bench while shooting 10-of-14 from the field versus the Rockets. The swingman also had a season-high 12 rebounds and three blocks to help the Lakers get their 40th win of the season.
“I think he’s a rhythm player, and when he knows he’s going to play and he’s going to get a significant amount of minutes off the bench, I think he can be really, really good for us,” James said. “I think coach [Darvin] Ham has done a great job over the last couple games, including the coaching staff, of finding a rotation that’s been fitting our team and Rui has been one of the first guys off the bench and we look for him. We know what he’s capable of.”
Hachimura is averaging 9.4 points and 4.7 rebounds with the Lakers while shooting 48.6% overall and 32.2% from 3.
Anthony Davis Praised Rui Hachimura as Well
“Defensively,” Davis told reporters when he was asked what impressed him the most about Hachimura’s performance against the Rockets. “Obviously, we know what he can do offensively. Midrange, he gets to the basket and shoots, but defensively, he had three huge blocks. Contest at the rim, guys try to dunk, he goes and gets those blocks. So defensively, he was really great tonight.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in January that the Lakers acquired Hachimura from the Washington Wizards for Kendrick Nunn and draft picks with the intention of signing him to an extension. Hachimura will become a restricted free agent in July once the purple and gold offer him a qualifying offer of $8.5 million.
The Lakers Will Have to Open Their Back Account to Keep Rui Hachimura
Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported in January that Hachimura is “expected to command a double-digit annual salary” in restricted free agency. As a restricted free agent, Hachimura can re-sign with the Lakers or sign an offer sheet with a rival team. Los Angeles can match any offer sheet Hachimura signs as long as it comes within 48 hours.
“Internally, Los Angeles is high on Hachimura, believing he has untapped potential that he wasn’t able to show with the Wizards after they chose to prioritize Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija,” Buha wrote. “The Lakers are interested in retaining Hachimura and currently expect to re-sign the restricted free agent this offseason, league sources told The Athletic. According to those sources, Hachimura is expected to command a double-digit annual salary though much lower than his nearly $19 million cap hold.”
Hachimura has career averages of 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists with the Wizards and Lakers. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2019 draft.