With the Los Angeles Lakers out of the playoffs, all eyes turn to the draft and free agency. Unlike last season, the Lakers have several decisions to make about key free agents.
One of them is Rui Hachimura, who will be a restricted free agent, although early signs indicate that Los Angeles will try to retain him.
It took Hachimura a while to get going, but he really found his groove in the postseason when he became an integral part of the rotation. The Japan native reflected on his time with the Lakers and had nothing but good things to say.
“Man, first of all it was crazy. Crazy three months for me. However, crazy means good,” Hachimura said in her exit interview. “It was one of the best moments of my life. Literally three months ago, four months ago I was on a different team on the East Coast and all of a sudden I’m here in Los Angeles, one of the biggest teams in the NBA and doing this crazy run. When I got here, I think we won’t even make the playoffs. We’re not a playoff team yet. And we got a lot of trades and then we started winning the games. We get the seventh seed, right, and then we get to the Western Conference Finals.
“For me it was one of the best moments and I think I had a good experience. I learned a lot from, of course, LeBron, AD, the coaches, Phil. It was just for me… I feel like I had two, three seasons this year and it was great for me. I think it’s going to be great for my career.”
As for his upcoming free agency, Hachimura couldn’t say much about where he was leaning, but he seemed grateful for the chance to play for the Lakers.
“I think just like playing with LeBron, AD, especially the three of us on the court, I think it was a huge impact against any team in the NBA. I’m sure the front office they’re looking for and of course I’m a free agent or whatever, but for me just these three months were good for me. I really had fun, learned a lot from LeBron, AD, the coaches, the whole organization. So yeah, I just want to say thank you for this opportunity.
“For me, at the end of the day, I’ve always been good to my agents. Jason and Matsu are always very grateful to me. We are a team and we always make a good decision together. Honestly, I can’t say anything right now, but I’ll talk to them carefully and we’ll decide what to do. I trust them a lot. I’m not saying it’s going to depend on them, but their choice will be really big.”
Hachimura is in line for a sizable raise after his playoff run, and the Lakers would do well to put their money where their words are, as he could be a long-term piece for them down the road.
Austin Reaves says the Lakers feel at home
The other key free agent Los Angeles should lock up is Austin Reaves who, like Hachimura, had a run in the postseason. Reaves has been honest about his desire to stay with the Lakers and reiterated that statement when he said they feel right at home.