Lakers’ Austin Reaves has earned trust in rotation – OCRegister

LOS ANGELES — Austin Reaves doesn’t use Twitter, but even he has seen the statistic that pinged around after the Lakers’ win on Sunday.

Entering Tuesday night, the Lakers were 14-5 when Reaves plays in games. It might be a quirk for a rookie who only averages 20 minutes per contest, but it’s a mark he’s proud of nonetheless.

“I think it’s just willing to do whatever on the court,” he said Monday after practice. “Whether it’s play defense, dive on the floor for loose balls, take charges, just all those little things that can either win or lose you a game is the things I’m kind of here to do. So, just like I said, those things and making winning basketball plays.”

The Lakers have taken notice, too. After an 11-day stay in COVID-19 protocols, Reaves almost immediately was dialed back into the rotation. It wasn’t what even Coach Frank Vogel imagined for the 23-year-old when he was added to the regular roster just as training camp opened.

But when Trevor Ariza, Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker and Wayne Ellington were unavailable to start the regular season, the Lakers needed wing help. Reaves delivered then, and he’s just kept going.

“Me trusting him was more brought onto me because he was forced into action due to injuries,” Vogel said. “You get shorthanded and it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s see what he can do.’ And he excelled in those opportunities to the point where when other guys came back, we still wanted to keep him in there.”

Reaves was averaging 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds entering Tuesday night, shooting 50 percent from the field. In his first 19 games, the Lakers have won his 384 minutes by a whopping 85 points.

His influence on winning and his hustle have earned him comparisons to another fan-favorite bench warrior for the Lakers the past few seasons: Alex Caruso. Reaves understands the compulsion to compare the two – and he takes it as a compliment.

“He made the right basketball play at all times and did the right things and played as hard as he possibly could,” Reaves said. “And that was something that I wanted to do coming in. I knew we had a lot of talent, a lot of guys that could score the basketball. And that aspect of really just bring the other side of it: play defense, hustle, all the things I mentioned earlier.”


The long-delayed arrival of Kendrick Nunn might finally be on its way.

Nunn has missed almost half the season with a bone bruise in his right knee that was stubborn to heal. But recently, Vogel said he’s been doing on-court work that gives the Lakers confidence that he could make his team debut soon.

“Still don’t have a timetable on it, other than to say he’s getting close,” Vogel said. “In terms of how we plan on using him, got to throw him into the mix and see what he looks like in our system before we can make any real determinations about what his role is going to be.”

The 26-year-old Nunn has averaged 15 points per game for his career and was a gritty player for the Miami Heat in his first two seasons, including against the Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals. Vogel said the team envisions him as a 3-point shooter and second-side attacker when he’s finally healthy.

“Kendrick’s going to get a ton of minutes when he gets back healthy,” he said. “It’s gonna be at the expense of somebody else, at least for that time being, to see how he fits in our system along with our stars. All that stuff will play out.”