Can Rui Hachimura Be Great’ in LeBron James’ stead?

Can Rui Hachimura Be Great' in LeBron James' stead?

Lakers Need Rui Hachimura ‘to Be Great’ in LeBron James’ Absence.

Lakers X-Factor Has ‘to Be Great’ Especially in LeBron James’ Absence.

Rui Hachimura #28 of the Los Angeles Lakers shakes hands with LeBron James #23 before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Without LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers will bank anew on Japanese forward Rui Hachimura to keep their momentum going.

The 26-year-old Hachimura is coming off his career-best game before the All-Star break.

Hachimura torched the Utah Jazz with a career-high 36 points in their 138-122 victory that also came without James on February 14, the second night of a back-to-back schedule.

He’s one of the main pieces.

“We need Rui to be great in order for us to be great,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham told reporters following that impressive road win without their franchise superstar. “He’s one of the main pieces for us and when he’s playing like that along with all the other weapons we have, we’re a pretty hard team to beat.”

Hachimura has to step up anew with James still dealing with a left ankle injury.

Against the Golden State Warriors, who were also red-hot heading into the All-Star break, Hachimura will get tested against the emerging duo of Jonathan Kuminga and former All-Star Andrew Wiggins.

“When I get into the game I want to impact the game, it’s always my goal,” Hachimura told reporters after beating the Jazz.

“I want to win the game, but I want to be the X-factor for the team, either coming off the bench or starting, whatever that is, offensively or defensively. I’ve just got to be aggressive, use my size, whatever it takes to win.

Over his last three games, Hachimura averaged 24.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 69% from the field and a staggering 53.3% from deep on a healthy five 3-point attempts per game.

‘Extremely Dangerous’

After Hachimura started the season slow with various injuries, he has turned the corner especially since Ham inserted him back into the starting lineup six games ago.

During this 5-1 stretch for the Lakers, Hachimura averaged 15.0 points on 63% shooting and 4.2 rebounds.

“[He’s] Extremely dangerous,” Ham said of Hachimura following his career game. “In terms of his aggressiveness, he very rarely has two bad games in a row. I just told him before that New Orleans game on the second night of a back-to-back after losing to Denver, I need you to come out and play like a wild man. Just put your fingerprints all over the game.”

Ham was referring to Hachimura’s quiet 4-point performance on the eve of New Year during a 129-109 loss to the Pelicans.

New Year, New Rui

Hachimura turned on his switch as the calendar flipped to 2024. He scored 17 points the following day, on January 1, interestingly, against the Jazz and never looked back.

Since that New Year’s Day game in Utah, Hachimura logged 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists while shooting 56.3% from the field and 44.4% from deep.

“Just with your running habits, just that alone, you running with force, playing with pace, attacking the defensive glass, offensive glass, really working. He’s doing a much better job and he’s grown since we acquired him last year,” Ham said. “Just being good on the ball defensively and keeping the ball in front, coming back and helping support the defensive glass, getting offensive rebounds, playing in the pocket and setting screens.

Giving us that physicality, whether it’s him being on the perimeter or him being along the front line in terms of the lineup. But he’s in a good space, he’s having fun with his teammates, having fun playing the game. He heard us loud and clear with us encouraging him.”

Alder Almo is a basketball journalist covering the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors for Heavy. He has more than 15 years of experience in local and international media, including broadcast, print and digital. He previously covered the Knicks for Empire Sports Media and the NBA for Off the Glass. Alder is from the Philippines and is now based in Jersey City, New Jersey. More about Alder Almo.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top