NBA superstar LeBron James sang new teammate Rui Hachimura's praises after he helped the Los Angeles Lakers notch their second victory since his arrival in a trade from the Washington Wizards.
Starting alongside James for the first time, the Japanese men's national basketball team standout scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds Tuesday in a 129-123 overtime win on the road against the New York Knicks.
While his scoring output was crucial, Hachimura's biggest play came on the defensive end, with the visitors protecting a five-point lead in overtime at Madison Square Garden.
With 1 minute, 44 seconds left, Hachimura leaped high to block a layup from Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson that would have cut the deficit to a single basket. Initially ruled goaltending, the block was deemed fair after a lengthy video review.
Lauding Hachimura after the game, James said he wanted the former Wizard to prioritize playing aggressively over simply trying to "fit in" with his new team.
"He's super cool. (He's) very low key, low maintenance, but his ability and what he can bring to our team, we need him to showcase that every night for us," James said.
"Me and (fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis) said, 'Be aggressive from the very beginning,' and he was that all the way to the very end, finishing off his performance with that block. So, it's a great piece to have, and we're lucky to have him."
The 24-year-old Hachimura said he hoped to build on his performance and continue contributing to his new team.
"For me personally, it was the best game of the season," Hachimura said. "Defensively, offensively and in terms of rebounding, it was good to see this kind of result. I want to keep it going."
The Lakers improved to 24-28 with the win and sit 13th in the Western Conference but are just four games back from fourth place in a turbulent playoff race.
James' 28 points against the Knicks, meanwhile, brought him to within 88 of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time NBA scoring record of 38,387 points.