Austin Reaves’ emotional reflection on rookie season with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Lakers
Austin Reaves was one of the few bright spots in what was a horrible Los Angeles Lakers 2021-22 season. While his averages might not pop out, he certainly had a solid rookie season that he can use to build on as he progresses in his career.
Even though there is not much to remember about his first year in the NBA–one that saw the Lakers miss the playoffs after finishing 11th in the West with a 33-49 record–it was still an unforgettable experience for Reaves. More than just getting minutes and being able to start, the fact that he was able to play with plenty of Hall of Famers already made his first year an incredible one.
The new Lakers fan-favorite admitted as much as he spoke to the media on Monday after their season officially ended.
“I got to play with six Hall of Famers at one point…It’s special and something I’ll never forget…You couldn’t write it better in a book,” Reaves said when asked about what he’ll remember the most in his rookie year, per Michael Corvo of ClutchPoints.
Indeed, while it wasn’t the kind of season the Lakers and Austin Reaves expected, it was still a great learning experience for the 23-year-old guard. After all, how many players can actually say they were able to suit up alongside at least five Hall of Famers in one season during their careers?
Being able to play with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard is certainly huge, especially for a young player trying to make his mark and leave a lasting legacy in the league.
Not to mention how crucial it is for a player like Reaves, who had to prove himself night in and night out just to show he belongs in the NBA. Reaves went undrafted in 2021 and started on a two-way contract with the Lakers. He was eventually able to land a standard NBA contract, which was one of the best moves the Purple and Gold did as well.
As everyone probably still remembers, Reaves exploded in the final game of the regular season, finishing with a tripled-double of 31 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Lakers to a 146-141 victory in overtime. He even made the clutch steal and bucket to send the game to an extended period.
It was his best game of the season, and it’s definitely a great ending despite the struggles the team encountered throughout. For many Lakers fans, that’s probably the highlight of the year as well.
Hopefully, Austin Reaves gets more opportunity with the Lakers in 2022-23. The team has moved on from Frank Vogel, and more roster changes are expected as Rob Pelinka and co. try to steer the LA ship in the right direction. Beyond the core of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, it is clear the team needs to make changes on the pieces around them in a bid to get younger and more athletic.
Reaves could very well be a key part of the Lakers’ future. Nonetheless, given that the team doesn’t have many assets that they could use to build a championship roster, it’s hard to know what the Purple and Gold franchise will do to quickly turn things around and help the team return to championship contention by the 2022-23 campaign.