The Los Angeles Lakers (4-5) got a much-needed, 122-119 victory over the Phoenix Suns on November 10. It featured a significant change to the starting lineup. Lakers head coach Darvin Ham decided to bring Austin Reaves off of the bench.
He also had seven assists, one rebound, and one steal and still played more minutes than his replacement, Cam Reddish.
Reaves, who described himself as a “competitor”, spoke candidly about the move.
“Truthfully you don’t want to have that conversation,” Reaves said via NBA.com. “You would love to have been playing better to not have those conversations, winning as a team. But my parents taught me at a young age that the coach is the coach, and his decision – regardless if you agree with it, don’t agree with it – you respect that. And that’s what I did.”
Reaves finished the Lakers’ win over the Suns with 15 points on 54.5% shooting from the floor. He also connected on 2-of-4 threes. Reaves scored six points in the fourth quarter, erasing what was at one point a 14-point Suns lead.
“Both of those guys are winners,” Ham said of Reaves and Reddish.
“We had good dialogue, back and forth on what we thought we could do to be better as a unit,” Reaves said. “And for me … winning is the main thing.”
“Now when the starters go to sit down and take their break, you’re not totally falling off a cliff,” Ham said. “You have balance in the second unit. And as deep as we are, and him leading the charge, and having a chance to quarterback the situation offensively, have the ball in his hands, and be able to make plays … it’s beautiful.”
“I respect the fact that [Ham] texted me and we had a conversation about it, and seeing eye to eye,” Reaves said. “Whatever it is that both of us can do to help the team be successful is what we want to do and what I’m willing to do.”
Darvin Ham Compares Austin Reaves to Manu Ginobili
“Everybody agreed that we needed to change up the music a little bit. And it wasn’t … a demotion for Austin. It was just a realignment. If anybody remembers those great San Antonio teams where everyone in the world knew Manu [Ginobili] was a starter but, sometimes to balance out your lineup, you have to put a player of his magnitude in a reserve role.”
Ham said he had a talk with Reaves about the decision beforehand.
“We had it last night when we touched down here,” Reaves said. We sat down for 15, 20, 30 minutes and just talked. You don’t have to make me feel comfortable. I understand, I see the writing on the wall. I kind of seen it coming. We … needed to shake things up.”
Ginobli is a Hall-of-Famer and four-time champion. He was also a two-time All-NBA selection and All-Star in his 16-year NBA career, spent entirely with the San Antonio Spurs.
He averaged 13.3 points 3.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in his career.
Ham named Reaves the team’s starting shooting guard in the offseason. But Reaves – who averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds for the Lakers last season – came off the bench in 42 of his 64 total appearances last season. However, the Lakers went 18-8 to close the regular season including an 8-2 final stretch with Reaves starting.
Reaves was third on the team in minutes versus the Suns. He also played the entire fourth quarter which the Lakers won 33-23.
“He still played 35 minutes,” Ham said. “That was the thing we talked about: his minutes weren’t going to go down and he’s going to finish the game for us. So it’s just a difference between starting or not starting out at the tip. But he was phenomenal tonight. Huge down the stretch.”
Lakers Depth Pays Off
“It was a good team win,” Ham said. “A lot of what we saw in that second half, that has to be our identity: just coming out with aggression defensively, getting off to the races offensively. And then, when we’re in the halfcourt offensively, playing smart, setting screens, playing with pace, making quick decisions. So we can get the most out of the talent that we’ve accumulated.”
This was a good showing for the Lakers’ depth which had come under fire amid a slew of injuries and their sluggish start to the season.
Up next is a three-game homestand starting with the Portland Trail Blazers on November 12.