Rui Hachimura’s addition to the Los Angeles Lakers following the trade with the Washington Wizards has brought the team some much-needed depth to its lineup.
Hachimura is not only liking his new Lakers threads, he’s also paying homage to the late Kobe and Gianna Bryant with his jersey number.
Hachimura debuted wearing No. 28, and while it was believed to be because his No. 8 with the Wizards was already retired for Kobe Bryant (No. 24 is as well), it’s actually to pay his respect to both of them.
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“I ask him, ‘Have you chosen a number yet?’” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said of a conversation with Hachimura during Stephen A. Smith’s “Know Mercy” podcast.” “He said, ‘Yeah, I am wearing No. 28 … No. 2 for Gianna and No. 8 for Kobe.’”
The tragic incident involving Kobe and Gianna Bryant, as well as seven others, was just over three years ago. They died in a helicopter crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles.
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Hachimura’s first game as a Laker saw 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes of play in a win over the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 25. He scored 16 in his most recent matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, a game in which the Lakers lost on Monday.
The 24-year-old has seen increases in playing time since being brought in, which was expected as the Lakers have had to fill the gaps on the wing with the likes of Troy Brown Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson and Wenyen Gabriel.
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Needing more offensive punch to go along with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who returned from injury recently, a play for the available Hachimura was made by GM Rob Pelinka.
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In his four-plus seasons with the Wizards, Hachimura averaged 13 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game over 177 contests (118 starts).