In what will mark their 17th different starting lineup this season, the Lakers (13-18) will start Nick Young at small forward tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks (6-24) at Staples Center because of the strong likelihood Wesley Johnson sits out with gastroenteritis, otherwise known as the stomach flu.
The Lakers are already reeling from long-term absences to Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Steve Nash (nerve issues in back) and Steve Blake (hyperextended right elbow). The Lakers also will reevaluate small forward Xavier Henry in 7-10 days after suffering torn cartilage and a bone bruise in his right knee.
Young has become of the few bright spots for the Lakers’ this season, averaging 16.2 points on 42.9 percent shooting mostly as a bench reserve. But Young’s ascension to the starting lineup has less to do with his stellar play and more to do with Johnson’s illness.
Through six starts, Young averaged 9.5 points per game on 33.5 percent shooting. Through 25 games off the bench, Young has averaged 17.8 points per game on a 44.3 percent clip.
“We’ll look and see how it goes tonight,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “You always evaluate it. But this move was caused by this. We’ll see what happens.
The Lakers value Young as a reserve both because of how he fits in more with a younger and more athletic lineup and to balance out the team’s scoring.
“I think Nick is one of the better players in the league,” D’Antoni said. “He can play. His shot selection is obviously still something that we’ll keep working on. But you don’t want to damper what he has. You can get a shot anytime he wants to and I can make a joke the best thing is he can get a shot anytime he wants to. The worst thing is he can get a shot anytime he wants to.”
Yet, the Lakers have become pleasantly surprised how Young has shown willingness to show more effort on defense, including taking charges.
“His ability to focus on the defensive end and try to get better has been great,” Young said. “I never thought that. We talk about his attitude and spirit. That’s great. There’s a lot of good things there.”
The Lakers’ starting lineup will include Jordan Farmar (point guard), Jodie Meeks (shooting guard), Young (small forward), Shawne Williams (power forward) and Pau Gasol (center). Chris Kaman participated in morning shootaround Tuesday after recently nursing a sprained left ankle and is expected to provide minutes off the bench.
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