May 27, 2024

You’re Cam Reddish.

Lakers players have emphasized that point to the newcomer who has replaced Austin Reaves in their starting lineup.

You’re Cam Reddish.

They have reminded Reddish of that again and again, with the gracious Reaves doing so after he scored 18 points in a 116-110 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night at Arena.

You’re Cam Reddish.

The same Cam Reddish who only five years ago was a consensus top-three high school player in the country, ahead of even Zion Williamson in some rankings.

The same Cam Reddish who was a one-and-done player at Duke.

The same Cam Reddish who was a lottery pick.

Reddish needed to hear that. The Lakers needed him to hear that.

The Clippers aren’t the only local team with problems. The Lakers don’t look right either, and their search for answers has practically forced them to place their trust in a 24-year-old has-been — or never-was, depending on the perspective.

If Reddish can be the player the Lakers envision, he could do more than help them shape their identity. He could also save his career.

Reddish is already on his fourth NBA team.

His body of work with the Lakers is limited but promising. In his first start in place of Reaves last week, Reddish scored 17 points in a win over the Phoenix Suns. He followed that up by making seven of 10 shots against the Trail Blazers, who didn’t extend him a qualifying offer after last season.

“I think a lot of times people forget how good Cam is,” Reaves said.

Anthony Davis made a similar argument, pointing to an interview with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards that circulated on social media. In the video, Edwards was asked about the toughest player he ever had to guard.

Edwards’ answer: Cam Reddish.

“We know the type of talent he is,” Davis said. “He can be a big-time player for us and he has shown that, what we want from him, in the past couple of games.”

Reddish acknowledged that he needed encouragement. He was drafted with the 10th overall pick of the 2019 draft by the Atlanta Hawks, who after 2½ seasons shipped him to the New York Knicks, who later sent him to the Trail Blazers.

He signed a two-year contract with the Lakers for the veteran’s minimum.

Reddish said he lost confidence over his previous four NBA seasons, in which he averaged 10.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.

“I”m not going to lie to you, for sure, 1000%,” Reddish said. “I almost was, like, ‘I’m cool, I ain’t got enough fight left in me.’”

His new teammates have done what they could to change that.

In a loss at Miami last week, Reddish received a pass from LeBron James in the corner, only to miss a wide-open, buzzer-beating three-pointer that would have won the game.

“Dang, my fault, Bron,” Reddish told James.

“Nah, no, it’s not,” James replied. “I’m going to come right back to you.”

Recalling the exchange, the soft-spoken Reddish said, “It was definitely big-time coming from Bron. But I don’t think it’s just him. I think all my teammates have done a great job of … telling me how much they believe in me. I haven’t had an atmosphere like this, I don’t think, in my entire career. So it’s been a lot of fun, a blessing.”

As well as Reddish has played offensively, coach Darvin Ham increased his role because of what he can do defensively. Reddish has registered three steals in each of his last three games. He also collected seven rebounds against the Trail Blazers.

“He’s so multifaceted defensively in terms of his length, the quickness of his hands, his ability to navigate screens and not get hit,” Ham said.

Ham recalled seeing this from Reddish in the 2021 Eastern Conference finals, when Ham was an assistant coach on the Milwaukee Bucks and Reddish was a second-year player on the Hawks.

“So I got to see it on the biggest stage,” Ham said.

Reddish guarded Khris Middleton. He also guarded Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“I just think what he needed was some stability and an opportunity — a consistent opportunity,” Ham said.

Based on what Reddish has shown him over the last two games, Ham is hopeful he can be a long-term solution for a Lakers team that looks disjointed.

“For right now, I just think he’s comfortable with the group,” Ham said. “He’s making plays. He’s not forcing anything. He’s shot the ball well. He’s playing downhill in these recent two games. He’s guarded some tough matchups. He’s another Swiss Army knife that doesn’t require touches necessarily but just gets all of his looks in the flow. He’s a stopgap. He can rotate. He can switch on defense and do a lot of different things on the fly. His genuine, natural knack for the game, I think the way he goes about it, it’s effortless.”

Davis was also optimistic.

“It’s crazy what confidence can do to a player, especially when your team is confident in you,” Davis said.

Is it really that simple?

At this point, the Lakers have to believe it is. Reddish has to, too. The stakes are considerable.

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