Lakers’ Rui Hachimura working himself back into game shape – Press Enterprise

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LOS ANGELES — With just three games under his belt since returning from a strained left calf, Lakers forward Rui Hachimura said he was still working himself into game shape ahead of Friday’s home game against the Brooklyn Nets.

“My calf is still not 100%, but it’s been great,” Hachimura said after the team’s Friday morning shootaround. “I’m moving well.”

Hachimura was sidelined for the first 1½ weeks of this month because of the calf injury he suffered in the Dec. 31 road loss to the New Orleans Pelicans – just one of several injuries he’s experienced this season that have kept him sidelined for at least a few games.

Hachimura has missed 13 games this season because of a variety of ailments – a concussion, a fractured nose and the calf injury.

Despite being in and out of the lineup, he is still managing to have one of his better statistical seasons.

Hachimura went into Friday’s game averaging 11.6 points (48.6% shooting, 36.5% from 3-point range) and 3.6 rebounds in 23.1 minutes. He averaged 11.7 points on 50% shooting in the three previous games.

“Everybody is pulling for him,” Coach Darvin Ham said pregame. “Everybody is encouraging him. He’s in a really good mental space, a spiritual space, in terms of his approach to the game. He’s having fun out there and that’s reflecting in the way he’s playing right now when he’s available.

“Had some tough things happen with his nose, the concussion, his calf strain and all of that. But through it all, he’s remained positive, remained focus. He’s constantly trying to get better and submerge himself in information so we can execute better. And him individually, definitely, taking that approach has helped our ball club.”

It’s nearly been a full calendar year since the Lakers acquired Hachimura.

They traded guard Kendrick Nunn and three second-round draft picks to the Washington Wizards for Hachimura on Jan. 23, 2023.

When asked about the ways Hachimura has grown, Ham responded “he’s gone out and [is] being more deliberate.

“He’s listening to the coaches, listens to his teammates really well,” Ham added. “LeBron [James] is taking him under his wing and talks to him all the time about what he should be seeing, how he should be reacting to different things on both sides of the ball. And I think he’s really benefited from that.

“Spends a lot of time with (assistant) coach Phil Handy, individually watching film, obviously asking questions constantly about his position and where he should be. And everyone encourages him and he has a genuine spirit in terms of his approach to the game. He’s been nothing short of amazing since he’s been here.”

ZONING UP

The Lakers have leaned on zone defense frequently throughout the season – something that would have been unthinkable for a team to do during Ham’s playing career.



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