LeBron James had just sat down after leaving the shower when he looked over and saw Rui Hachimura about to leave the Lakers’ locker room to conduct his first postgame interview with the media after a 113-104 win over San Antonio.
James smiled and to no one in particular said, “It feels good to have another 6-8 wing in this …”
Hachimura had been acquired from the Washington Wizards for guard Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks on Monday to give the Lakers some much-needed size on the wing. But he’s also a multi-skilled player whom Lakers coach Darvin Ham said can “score at three levels.”
In his debut with the Lakers on Wednesday night against the Spurs at Crypto.com Arena, Hachimura scored on the fastbreak, in the post and from three-point territory.
That was no surprise to Anthony Davis, who played for the first time since missing 20 games because of a right foot injury. Davis faced Hachimura when he played for the Wizards and recalled that his new teammate “was able to do it all.”
“Any time I played against him in Washington, he made an impact on the game on both ends of the floor,” Davis said. “And tonight, we tried to feature him. A lot of post-ups knowing that he can do it all. Really good mid-ranger shooter. Can get to the basket. Has a back-to-the-basket game. Face-up. Can shoot the ball.”
Hachimura first checked into the game with 4 minutes and 22 seconds left in the first quarter, coming onto the court with Davis, who also was a reserve in his first game back.
After missing his first three shots, Hachimura made a 16-foot jumper with eight minutes left in the second quarter.
Then came the enlightening moment for him, when Hachimura filled the lane on the fastbreak later in the second, took a pass from James, fumbled it and recovered the ball to score on a layup.
Hachimura smiled after the basket and slapped hands with James as he ran back on defense.
“Yeah, just enjoying the moment,” Hachimura said. “I like to play fast. Obviously, here the Lakers, we like to play fast. I think it’s a great fit for me. I like to run. Everybody can pass. Everybody can push the ball. So, I can push the ball. So, I think it’s great.”
Hachimura finished his night having played 21:31 and produced 12 points on four-for-seven shooting, one of three on three-pointers. He had six rebounds and one assist.
He left an impression.
“The kid plays the right way,” Ham said. “He’s another one that’s able to score at three levels, whether it’s catch-and-shoot three, post-up. I called his number a couple of times to get him the ball in the post. He’s got a good mid-range game and when he goes to the rim, he goes hard, as we saw on the one play he tried to dunk. He drew the foul call. … But Rui is a kid, he’s just out there to play the right way and just watching him over the years, he’s a seamless fit.”
Hachimura found a groove in the fourth quarter, displaying all of his skills.
He drilled a three-pointer, he found James for an assist, he scored in the post on a turn-around jumper and he was fouled while in the post again, making one of two free throws.
“We looked over a little bit of the plays and defense and stuff this morning,” he said. “But yeah, today, for me, I think I did pretty good. I fit in pretty good with those guys. I think the players, play calls were so easy. And yeah, we were just out there hooping. So yeah, I think it was good.”
Davis joked that some of the plays that featured Hachimura in the post had been for him in the past and that he was told, “AD, you go in the corner.”
“But we just kept running it,” Davis said. “I was telling the guys to keep going to it, the action where Rui goes in the post. Just tell him, ‘If they don’t double, you don’t pass. You go to work.’ So, he got going. Made a turnaround, then got fouled. He can really, really help us on both ends of the floor. Obviously, him getting acclimated with the team is going to take time. But tonight, it looked he was able to fit in really well.”
Hachimura, who was born in Japan, was asked if he knew anything about the reports of the Rakuten server crashing at one point during the Lakers’ game against the Spurs because so many people from his country wanted to watch the game.
“Oh, honestly, I haven’t checked my phone yet. I don’t know. I gotta check it out,” he said, smiling. “Like I said before, I think yesterday, the Lakers are like literally the most famous team in the NBA in Japan. So yeah, I think a lot of people are watching here. And, of course, they’ve been following me. So, I think as a country, we’re so happy about this move. And I think I’m so happy to be here.”
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