Austin Reaves quickly proved his doubters wrong after he joined the Los Angeles Lakers as an undrafted free agent last year.
Reaves secured a regular NBA contract before the end of the offseason thanks to his good performance over the summer. In 2021-22, the Oklahoma alum enjoyed regular playing time out of the gate — and ended up in the starting lineup toward the end of the campaign.
Reaves averaged 7.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 61 games, starting 19 of them and clocking in 23.2 minutes per night — with hustle and impeccable work ethic playing the key role in the 24-year-old’s emergence.
In an interview with the L.A. Times’ Dan Woike, Reaves offered an insight into his mindset ahead of the season’s tip-off, saying he wanted to make it clear he had what it took to make it in the NBA:
“I looked [my agent] in his eyes,” Reaves said. “And I was like, ‘To tell everybody to f— off.’ My whole life, I’ve been too skinny. Not athletic enough. At one point I wasn’t skilled enough. Everybody found excuses for me not to. … It was always, ‘We’re gonna find something about him that he can’t do good enough to make it.’
“Yeah, so it was a good feeling to just tell everyone to f— off.”
Reaves has already been back in the gym this offseason, working out with other young Lakers. However, the guard has said he isn’t yet sure whether he will play for L.A. in the 2022 Summer League.
Reaves explains how he grew his role on Lakers in 2021-22
Reaves has said he understood that only hard work and extra effort on the defensive side of the ball could earn him a bigger role in his first year with L.A.
“From the get-go — especially in my situation — it was obvious that I wasn’t gonna get the keys out of the gate. You really just gotta do everything that a lot of people don’t wanna do, to be honest. Be the gritty, tough-nosed defender, do all the little things, and really just know the game. I think that’s the main thing,” he said.
“If you know basketball, and you know how to play and you play with these guys like LeBron, AD, Russ, like it makes the game so much easier cause they know the game at such a high level it’s just gonna equal out and you’ll be fine.”
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