How a postgame dinner led to Darvin Ham replacing Austin Reaves with Cam Reddish in the Lakers starting lineup

Jesse Cinquini
4 Min Read
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

A postgame dinner after the Los Angeles Lakers’ humiliating loss to the Houston Rockets on Nov. 8 reportedly led to head coach Darvin Ham replacing Austin Reaves with Cam Reddish in the team’s starting lineup against the Phoenix Suns.

“The idea took hold postgame Wednesday in Houston, the team staying overnight after their loss to the Rockets,” Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times wrote. “Ham, his wife and members of his coaching staff had a late dinner at a seafood restaurant across from the team hotel. And as people filtered out, Ham turned to assistant coach Chris Jent with an idea.

‘”Man’, he said, ‘I’m thinking about changing the lineup, bro.’

“The switch in some ways was probably inevitable.

“While Ham and the coaches dined that evening, ESPN broadcast the ugly numbers. No team in NBA history had been outscored by more in first quarters in the season’s first eight games than his. The other teams on the list had all lost at least 50 games. The Lakers were spotting teams 74 points in the opening quarters over the course of the young season and the uphill climbs were getting too steep.

“There was just one requirement for Ham when it came to the switch: ‘It just has to make sense for all the right reasons.'”

Reddish made the most of his opportunity in Friday’s game against the Suns. In 28 minutes, he finished with 17 points, three rebounds and three steals while shooting 5-for-10 from the field and 5-for-8 from behind the 3-point line. Additionally, he nailed a clutch 3-pointer to give the Lakers a five-point lead against Phoenix with just over a minute remaining in the game.

In nine games with the storied Lakers franchise so far this season, the 24-year-old is averaging 5.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.

Even after his efficient scoring display against the Suns, Reddish is shooting just 34.8 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from outside the 3-point arc on the season, so he still has plenty of room for growth ahead of him.

Reddish inked a two-year deal with Los Angeles in the offseason after spending the 2022-23 regular season with the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers.

Reaves — the player who Reddish replaced in the starting lineup on Friday — has had a forgettable start to the 2023-24 regular season. After signing a four-year contract with Los Angeles in the offseason, the 25-year-old is averaging 13.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game this season while shooting 43.0 percent from the field and 30.0 percent from deep.

For comparison, Reaves converted 52.9 percent of his field-goal attempts for the Lakers a season ago, including 39.8 percent of his 3-point attempts.

In 35 minutes off the bench against the Suns, Reaves had himself a very productive game, however. He totaled 15 points, seven assists and one steal in a game the Lakers won by three points to improve to 4-5 on the season.

Only time will tell if Ham continues to roll with Reaves on the bench and Reddish in the starting lineup. But his decision to shake up the team’s rotation translated into a win against one of the most talented teams in the Western Conference on Friday, even though the Suns were without Devin Booker.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.