Darvin Ham is no stranger to the Dennis Schroder roller coaster. He couldn’t help but reflect on it after Schroder’s best game of the season, calling him “the tenacious little kid I fell in love with back in Atlanta in 2013.” Ham may look back fondly on the kid he used to coach, but it took a grown-man performance to lead the Lakers to a 112-109 win over the Miami Heat. Schroder scored 32 to give the Lakers their third consecutive victory, this time with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis sidelined. Yet after the game, he deflected credit onto his teammates.
“Everybody chipped in, everybody did a great job, we played together,” Schroder said after the game. It was a welcome bit of modesty for a player who has seemingly grown immensely since his first stint with the Lakers. When he arrived in Los Angeles as the reigning Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, he publicly made it clear he planned to start in for the defending champion Lakers. A scuffle with Montrezl Harrell last season suggests that he didn’t exactly endear himself to all of his teammates in that 2020-21 season, and he infamously turned down an $84 million extension offer at the time that would eventually result in him being forced to take a mere $5.9 million months later.
Schroder is on the minimum salary this season, but he isn’t playing like it lately. Since Davis went down, he’s averaging over 15 points per game as one of the primary scorers on the roster behind James. With no James on Wednesday, the offense revolved around him. He ran with the opportunity, which came more frequently in his younger, higher-paid days. On a team loaded with ball-handling guards, Schroder is now often relegated to spot-up duty.
It’s a role he’s accepted without complaint. Whether he was humbled by his past few seasons or merely matured with time, Schroder has scaled up or down offensively as much or as little as the team has needed at any given time. There are nights when he plays 20 minutes and nights when he plays 40, and tonight was one of those nights where he reminds the basketball world why he was once offered $84 million in the first place.
In that sense, it’s been the best of both worlds for Schroder lately. He’s still capable of that youthful aggression that Ham describes, but he’s reaching for it in more measured doses and acting as a more willing participant in the team structure. The result has been some of the best basketball he’s played in years. The roster may not currently be built for him to play this way often, but given the frequency of injuries this team endures, it’s nice to know that he’s still capable of scoring like that kid Ham got to know a decade ago in Atlanta.