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There was undoubtedly a sense of desperation from Jeanie Buss and the Los Angeles Lakers at the 2023 trade deadline. If they wanted any chance at making a run this season, they had to find a way to trade away some of their less productive pieces and land a more cohesive basketball team.
One of the many rumored options was a deal that would send the ever-talented but tumultuous star point guard Kyrie Irving. Reportedly, the Brooklyn Nets asked the Lakers for a haul,
It’s now being reported that Reaves may have been the dealbreaker that got the Lakers to move on to the option they ultimately took, which was landing D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt in a three-team deal. Buss herself reportedly fought to keep Reaves in L.A., according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype:
That’s the sense I’ve gotten. You touched on some of the Brooklyn stuff. I’ll add to that very briefly. You touched on those other tradable assets the Lakers had that the Nets wanted. Austin Reaves was one of those guys that came up. I heard among the people who wanted to keep Austin in LA was Jeanie Buss. That’s a good advocate to have on your side if you’re a Laker.
If there was any doubt about the sophomore Reaves’ impact on the Lakers, it’s gone after the trade deadline. In the team’s last 15 games since the deadline, Reaves is averaging 14.1 points and 4.3 assists per game on 57.0% from the field and 45.8% from three, both elite numbers for a smaller guard. Buss can do an early victory lap if she fought for him the way it was reported.
Reaves has coupled that with quality defense that has helped lift the Lakers to a 9-6 overall record since the deadline and 9-5 since acquired players actually began playing. The Lakers have a real chance at the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference in part due to Reaves’ contributions.
Reaves has started to show flashes of being a legitimate point guard when it was out of necessity. Both LeBron James and Russell has missed significant time since the deadline, and Reaves has taken on some of the ball-handling and distributing in that time.
The first truly disappointing loss for the Lakers since the trade deadline came on Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets. Despite not having James, Mo Bamba or Anthony Davis, the Lakers still should have been able to pull out a victory against the lowly Rockets.
L.A. was on the second night of a back-to-back, but Reaves had no interest in using that as an excuse.
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