Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka recently said that star forward LeBron James has been personally training teammate Rui Hachimura all summer long.
“I think watching Rui come here after the trade sort of felt like a personal renaissance for him. He just came alive as a player again, and he parlayed that this offseason with really incredible work,” Pelinka said. “He spent most of his time training with LeBron. I think that was really intentional, and I know the coaching staff and the front office, in the days where we’ve had some individual work in here, he’s playing with an extremely high level of confidence and belief. I think his strength and athleticism look like they’re at a different level.”
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham also discussed Hachimura’s summer workouts with James.
“Rui has become, we were laughing, Bron calls him ‘his understudy,'” Ham said. … “He’s been with him all summer as much as possible, and I think that’s a great thing.”
Hachimura was selected with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and has played for two teams — the Washington Wizards and Lakers — across his four seasons in the NBA. He spent the first three-plus seasons of his pro career with the Wizards before they traded him to the Lakers in January of 2023 in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks.
The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 9.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game in 33 games played with the storied Lakers franchise during the 2022-23 regular season.
Hachimura had himself a solid 2022-23 regular season with the Lakers, but he performed at an even higher level during the 2023 playoffs. He averaged 14.5-plus points per game in two of Los Angeles’ three playoff series — against the Memphis Grizzlies in round one and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals — and also shot better than 53.0 percent from the field in both of those series.
Meanwhile, James was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. He averaged 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game across 55 appearances with the Lakers during the 2022-23 regular season (54 starts). The 38-year-old struggled to score the ball efficiently from behind the three-point arc, though, seeing as how he converted just 32.1 percent of his threes, his lowest three-point percentage since the 2015-16 regular season.
James managed to carry over his excellent play from the 2022-23 regular season into the 2023 playoffs. He played at a very high level in Los Angeles’ second-round playoff series against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors. The forward averaged 24.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game for the series while shooting 49.5 percent from the field.
Only time will tell if Hachimura’s time spent working out with James will pay off with a career year for the 25-year-old during the 2023-24 regular season. But considering James is arguably the greatest basketball player ever, picking his brain and spending time with him can only benefit Hachimura.