Why the Lakers Benched Rui Hachimura in Favor of Taurean Prince


When Rui Hachimura signed a three-year $51 million contract with the Lakers, many thought he would certainly get a spot in the starting lineup.

But LA coach Darvin Ham opted to put Taurean Prince in the lineup for much of the 2023-24 season and bench Rui.

NBA insider Jovan Buha has recently shed light on why that was the case.

“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,” Buha reported for The Athletic.

“Prince, on the other hand, earned the trust of the coaching staff with his professionalism and consistency.”

So Prince was favored over Hachimura.

“The decision to start Prince was far from a unanimous one inside the organization,” Buha added.

“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.”

Fast forward to April and Hachimura is firmly in the starting lineup.

The Lakers are 17-8 since head coach Darvin Ham placed Hachimura in the starting lineup consistently.

He has been shooting over over 54 percent from the field and 45 percent from three in those 25 games.

After Rui’s 32-point and ten-rebound performance against the Grizzlies late last week, LeBron James spoke about how the Japanese native has looked since joining the starting five.

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“Very comfortable. He knows where his shots are coming from, he knows he’s gonna be on the floor and get minutes. I think he feels that we as his teammates, we look for him. Either early post situations or kickouts or when guys close out heavy on him, his ability to drive and finish, drive and pull up, things of that nature. It gives us another big body, another athletic wing out there when we downsize on a night like tonight when we had to play small at times. Me and him, we can switch some things and still be able to clean the glass. He’s been very key for our success since he got here.”

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