Austin Reaves knows he has the respect of LeBron James and his Lakers teammates, and he rewarded his faith in him with a triple winner.
LeBron James faced Austin Reaves more than once Wednesday, and neither time was a warm moment.
A less persistent player than Reaves could have been intimidated when James emphatically and repeatedly corrected his defensive and spacing errors. Reaves had grown up admiring James, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Anthony Davis, among others, “so being his teammate is special to me,” he said.
Rather than feel intimidated, Reaves took James’s scolding as a sign of trust and respect. He justified that faith by receiving a pass from a Westbrook and hitting the three-point shot that gave the Lakers a 107-104 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks, sparking happy celebration on the American Airlines Center court. The jubilation moved to the locker room, where he was given a celebratory splash that was mixed with the sweat of a long night of work.
“It is a sponge. It absorbs all the information we give it, ”Davis said. “He wants to learn and improve. He is not afraid of the moment. That’s clear. He is a hard worker, he plays hard, he does things well. Even when we get in touch with him during the game, he is there, accepting criticism, accepting help and applying it on the pitch ”.
Reaves’ story is easy to celebrate and his success on Wednesday easy to enjoy. He played 32 minutes and 15 seconds, making five of the six shots he tried – all three-pointers – and grabbing seven rebounds, all of them defensively. He worked honestly and wrote a happy ending when he eluded Tim Hardaway Jr. – who probably fouled him – and shot from 7 meters.
“I didn’t care if it was me, Russ or Bron who scored, I just wanted to win the game,” Reaves said. “That is really all that matters. But it happened that the ball reached me with a couple of seconds. I didn’t get a chance to do anything else. I had to shoot ”.
His contributions were key to a team that won its third straight game and sixth in the last eight despite being short on players Wednesday, with Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard and Malik Monk on the NBA’s COVID protocols. . The Lakers needed the push that the Newark, Arkansas player was capable of providing, and they will continue to bet on him because they know he can take it and deliver.
“I told him after the game that that was a great shot, but it really was about the whole game that he did,” coach Frank Vogel said. “He played great defense, he made extra passes, he competed and obviously made great shots when the ball hit him. It was a great way to see him get the win. ”
Reaves said he’s okay with James offering advice anytime, in any way.
“That is what I hope it does. He is probably the best player ever. He is a great competitor, ”he told The Times. “If he sees something I’m doing wrong, I hope he will come. He can come to yell at me, to explain to me in another way, it doesn’t matter. I will try not to do the same next time. I really enjoy it. You can see that he wants me to learn and do a better job ”.
Reaves admitted that he was in awe of his new teammates the first time he joined them in reviewing the plays during that minicamp in Las Vegas last summer. “I just remember going out onto the court and thinking, you have Bron, Russ, AD, Melo, all these guys that have been established in the league for a long, long time. Like I said, six members of the Hall of Fame, ”Reaves said.
“So yeah, there was a split second when we were in Las Vegas that I felt that way. Then I quickly realized that it is just basketball and that is what we are doing here and that is what has brought me to this point. ”
James, who scored 24 points in almost 43 minutes, said the Lakers are “like living in the moment every minute,” due to the daily uncertainty about which players might be available due to COVID rules. “We have many injuries, many mixed lineups, many partners in protocols, false positives, things of that nature,” he explained, “so we are what we are as a team and we like where we are.”
He also said that he was very proud of Reaves, and rightly so. The game had a happy ending for Reaves, but it could be just the beginning for the player who distinguished himself alongside his teammates he has always admired.