Why was Austin Reeves moved to the Lakers bench?Davon Hamm and LeBron James evaluate backup roles for guards

After deep cultivation in the 2023 playoffs, the Lakers entered the 2023-24 season with high expectations. Less than a month into the year, Los Angeles is slowly starting to find answers to turn things around.

Nine games into the season, Lakers head coach Davon Hamm decided to shake things up, moving Austin Reeves out of the starting lineup and opting to bench the third-year guard in a win over the Suns.

The move is a bit of a shock, as Reeves became a full-time starter at the end of the 2022-23 season and played an integral role in the aforementioned deep playoff run. That said, early returns suggest the move may eventually be permanent.

Why was Reeves moved to the bench? Here’s what Hamm had to say about the decision and what it means going forward.

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Why was Austin Reeves moved to the Lakers bench?

During the Lakers’ game against the Suns on November 10, Ham decided to move Reeves to the bench in favor of fifth-year wing Cam Reddish, who signed with Los Angeles in the 2023 offseason.

The results spoke for themselves: Reddish scored 17 points in 28 minutes, hitting 5 of 8 three-pointers, including a late dagger that gave the Lakers a five-point lead with 70 seconds left. Reeves came off the bench for 35 minutes and finished with 15 points (6-of-11 shooting) and 7 assists.

Reeves and Reddish were both on the court during the most critical moments of the game.

To put it bluntly, this move is good for everyone involved. After the game, Ham said the lineup changes come down to one thing: balance.

“Everyone agrees we need to change the music a little bit. This isn’t a demotion for Austin. It’s just a reset,” Ham said after the game.

“If anyone remembers those great San Antonio teams, everybody in the world knew Manu (Ginobili) was the starter,” he continued. “But sometimes in order to balance your lineup, you have to have a player of his caliber in a backup role, so now when the starters sit down and rest, you’re not completely falling off a cliff. You have the balance second. unit.”

Early in the season, the Lakers were flying when LeBron James was playing. With only one full game remaining, Reeves was responsible for leading the non-LeBron lineup for 11 of the 12 minutes against the Suns.

James has been impressed with Reeves’ ability to resume a backup role.

“He’s just a big-time player. He can play any role,” James said in his farewell interview. “When you have a guy who can play any role — starting, coming off the bench, with the ball, without the ball — it makes it easier for the team, and AR can do that, so, it’s easy to transition him.”

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Reeves’ second backup performance in 2023-24 came in a game without James, meaning all 48 minutes were non-LeBron time. The results were encouraging again, with Reeves scoring 18 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 28 minutes off the bench.

When it comes to the Lakers’ rotation and potential lineups, it’s important to note how much the team has been affected by injuries.

Ten games into the season, the Lakers have missed 35 games due to injury. Starter Jarred Vanderbilt has yet to make his season debut, and offseason addition Gabe Vincent (Gabe Vincent) missed six of the team’s first 10 games.

The stability and balance Reeves provides to the second unit may be just what the Lakers need to ease the process of reuniting Vanderbilt and Vincent, who performed in his first game with the Purple and Gold. Had to struggle a lot.

The small-game sample size suggests that moving Reeves to the bench was the right decision, as the Lakers’ adjusted record is 2-0. But ultimately, it reminds us that while it may be important to start a game, it’s even more important to turn it off.

Reeves’ performance against Phoenix and Portland — and Ham’s comparison to Ginobili — should tell you all you need to know about how the Lakers view their undrafted gems, regardless of their How about the character.

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