The Los Angeles Lakers continued their tough start to the 2023-24 season on Sunday night with a road game against the Sacramento Kings. A painfully slow start made the showdown seem like a blowout in the making but the purple and gold were able to claw back to make it a close game down the stretch.
After more late-game heroics from LeBron James the Lakers took the Kings into overtime and had a chance to win. However, the Lakers simply could not keep up with the Kings’ red-hot shooting and fell in overtime as a result.
Sacramento knocking down threes was not the biggest story of the overtime period, though. Instead, it was Darvin Ham making the decision to bench Austin Reaves during the fifth frame after he turned in one of the worst games of his young career in the first four quarters.
Darvin Ham unintentionally buries Austin Reaves by benching him in Lakers loss
Don’t get it wrong, Austin Reaves was very bad in this game. The breakout two-guard scored just five points on 1-12 shooting and did not add any positive defensive play to go with it. It was by far the worst game that Reaves has had since he burst onto the scene and became a consistent difference-maker for the Lake Show.
It is also a head coach’s duty to play the best guys out there when the game is on the line. With how Reaves played, there definitely is a case that he didn’t deserve to be out there on the floor, regardless of how talented he is.
But it is not like Ham turned to some other great option to replace Reaves in overtime. Instead, Ham called on Gabe Vincent to play the final frame and he continued to do nothing offensively. Vincent hasn’t necessarily been very good either thus far in the season, so having blind trust in him was an interesting choice by Ham.
As bad as it was for Reaves, the Lakers are still very early in the 2023-24 season and if there was ever a time to make mistakes it is now. Letting Reaves go out there and try to save his performance could have been much more beneficial than burying him on the bench as a punishment of some kind.
If the Lakers lost because of Reaves then so be it. It is early in the season and you move on. But if Reaves saved his bad game by being a hero in a big spot then suddenly the Lakers have a foundation to grow on.
Reaves would have been a better option for those open three than Taurean Prince, that is for sure. But instead, Ham turned to other role players who also weren’t having amazing games against the Kings.
Either way, the Lakers lost. The least the team could have done was lose with the best players on the floor.
There’s still plenty of time for Ham and the Lakers to find the rotation that works best for them, and you can watch their journey for three months on NBA League Pass thanks to FanDuel Sportsbook! You’ll win League Pass PLUS a shot at $150 in bonus bets just for signing up with the link below, depositing $10 or more and betting $5 or more on any Lakers moneyline wager you think will win!