Xavier Henry Proves Value with Huge Game Against Los Angeles Clippers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2013


Who needs Kobe Bryant when you have Xavier Henry?

The Los Angeles Lakers guard finished with 22 points, six rebounds and two assists in his team's 116-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, via L.A.'s Instagram account.

It was a big performance from a player who's struggled to gain any traction in his first three seasons in the league after getting drafted 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Perhaps Henry has found a home in Los Angeles. Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins thought he was getting a lot of latitude on the court.

Some of that freedom could be chalked up to the strong outlook for Henry Mike D'Antoni had before the game, per ESPNLosAngeles' Dave McMenamin.

The former New Orleans Hornet was fourth on the Lakers in scoring during the preseason (11.9). He was also one of the team's best perimeter defenders, a skill which Los Angeles desperately needs this season.

Even with that in mind, few, if any, fans could have foreseen a performance like this.

Henry was showing a ton of confidence on the court. He was feeling it from the floor and willing to launch a shot from anywhere. He finished 8-of-13 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from three-point range. This from a player who's made only 13 three-pointers in 133 games coming into the season, per Basketball-Reference.

The best sign of Henry's confidence was that stare down of Chris Paul after a big dunk. That takes a lot of guts. If he really wanted to make a statement, he would have touched CP3's head.

Going forward, there's no reason why Henry shouldn't continue to get more and more playing time. Lakers sideline reporter Mike Trudell thinks it's a virtual certainty.

The biggest obstacle at present is Nick Young, which is more like speed bump. This is the same Nick Young who has never seen a shot he didn't like and the ultimate false confidence guy. He's a liability at the defensive end and doesn't make up for that with his shooting.

If you're D'Antoni, you want somebody you can count on more—Henry.

Offense has been the one thing holding Henry back the most, but as he demonstrated on Wednesday night, that may not be as much of a problem as first thought. Henry was getting to the basket and hitting his mid- to long-range shots.

There's little chance he'll continue playing this well for the rest of the season. He doesn't need to. All Henry must do is provide some scoring off the bench, defend on the perimeter and possibly start until Bryant returns from his Achilles tendon injury.

Although the Lakers may not be title contenders this season, they may have found a hidden gem in Xavier Henry.