Report: Lakers initially started Taurean Prince due in part to Rui Hachimura not embracing specific duties

Jesse Cinquini
4 Min Read
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly decided to have Taurean Prince instead of forward Rui Hachimura in the team’s starting lineup partially because the latter didn’t welcome the role that the coaching staff wanted him to play.

“But once Hachimura arrived in training camp, he didn’t embrace the role-player duties the coaching staff wanted from him — being fully engaged defensively, boxing out hard, making the extra pass,” Jovan Buha wrote. “Prince, on the other hand, earned the trust of the coaching staff with his professionalism and consistency.

“The decision to start Prince was far from a unanimous one inside the organization. The coaching staff believed Hachimura’s score-first mentality, which had not evolved enough in training camp in their eyes, made him a better fit off the bench. Prince, meanwhile, profiled as the low-usage, 3-and-D player the starting lineup needed to space the floor and slot onto elite wing scorers.”

Prince — who has played for five teams in his NBA career — has started 49 of the 66 games he has played in for the Lakers in the 2023-24 regular season and is averaging 9.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game in his first season with the storied franchise.

The 30-year-old has served as a productive floor-spacer for Los Angeles, as he is shooting 38.7 percent from 3-point range on 4.8 attempts per contest, which is an impressive combination of efficiency and usage rate.

The lion’s share of Prince’s field-goal attempts this season have come from deep, as he is averaging just 7.5 total shots per game.

His best performance of the month in terms of 3-point shooting came back on March 4, when the Lakers earned an impressive victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Prince finished with 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range and also chipped in six rebounds, one assist and one block.

As for Hachimura, he has started in less than half of the games he’s appeared in this season, as he has 55 games played to his name but just 26 starts. But he is putting up better offensive numbers than Prince is, as he is averaging 12.8 points per game on 53.1 percent shooting from the floor and 41.2 percent from deep.

Hachimura has also had a much more productive month of March than Prince has from an offensive standpoint. The former is averaging 17.1 points per game while shooting 60.8 percent from the field for the month, while the latter is averaging just 7.4 points per contest during that span.

Furthermore, Hachimura has scored 20 points or more three times this month. Prince, on the other hand, hasn’t scored more than 14 points in a single game in March.

The Lakers will host the Philadelphia 76ers in their next regular-season game on Friday night.

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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.