Something appears looming on the Lakers’ itinerary. The timing has not become as definitive as the Lakers (3-13) hosting the Toronto Raptors (13-3) on 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Staples Center.
But outside of tonight’s game, Lakers coach Byron Scott suggested that it’s only a matter of if and not when he will make lineup changes.
“I’m pretty sure I will,” Scott said following Sunday’s morning shootaround at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “Eventually, yes I will.”
But what Scott would not outline what exactly what he would do. He laughed when asked which positions he has thought about tinkering with, but he declined to specify. But after questioning the Lakers’ effort in their 120-119 loss on Friday to Minnesota, Scott has said he is “getting closer” toward making a shuffle in hopes of changing the Lakers’ fortunes that have entailed a three-game losing streak and a 1-8 home record. Scott also held out his lanyard, moving his fingers closer to each other to outline how his figurative “leash” has shortened.
“I don’t look at it as chances. I’m just looking at it as a timetable,” Scott said. “Sometimes it takes two to three months before to see if guys are getting it and if they’re understanding and gelling or picking up things. Or do you have to make changes before you see other results? I’m still in that time frame of giving them time. I’m also much more aware in my mind that I’m going to be making some changes.”
Scott said one of those immediate changes won’t entail adding any players to the roster.
The Lakers have been granted disabled player exceptions for season-ending injuries to Steve Nash ($4.85 million) and Julius Randle ($1.5 million). Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak recently told Los Angeles Newspaper Group that he has applied for a disabled player exception for Xavier Henry ($550,000) and has applied for the NBA’s hardship exception. That tool will allow the Lakers to add a 16th player to their roster while Ryan Kelly misses at least the next five weeks because of a torn right hamstring.
But Scott reported that he and Kupchak talked on Saturday about not making any immediate roster changes. The Lakers have a three-game trip this week in Detroit (Tuesday), Washington D.C. (Wednesday) and Boston (Friday) without any scheduled practice.
“Our conversation yesterday was that we weren’t going to do anything anytime soon,” Scott said. “Having somebody here would negate everything we need. We need guys here for practice.”
In the meantime, Scott spent the Lakers’ recent practice on Saturday expressing more of his frustration stemmed from the Lakers’ loss on Friday to Minnesota. During that time, Scott recalled directly questioning to his players about their pre-game preparation and the importance they put in each game.
“I always was taught when you get ready for the game, you’re already thinking about the guy that you’re guarding the night before, what you had to do against this guy, what you had to do offensively and defensively,” Scott said about his 14-year NBA career that entailed 11 seasons with the Showtime Lakers. “I start going through those processes the night before a game. Then today it’s sticking to a routine and do the things that I normally do to get my mind completely on the game. I asked guys yesterday, I feel like you think the game gets in the way sometimes. You’re already thinking about what you’re doing after the game. That’s a big problem.”
Scott then offered a unique analogy toward how his players should view each game.
“This is not brain surgery. This is simple stuff. It’s a matter of having guys understand how important it is as well,” Scott said. “This should be the most important thing. Unless your wife is in the hospital pregnant and about to have your second, third, fourth or eighth child, that’s important obviously. But if you’re not having anything like that going on, this should be the most important thing of the day.”
What feedback did his players provide?
“I didn’t let them talk,” said Scott, who reported an unnamed assistant coach also spoke during the meeting. “I said my piece and I felt much better.”
Scott showed a similar demeanor following the Lakers’ double-digit loss two weeks ago to Golden State, which entailed questioning the team’s focus level and nearly yelling out an expletive. Then, the Lakers held an extended film session the following night in Atlanta that went over the team’s defensive lapses. The Lakers followed with wins against Atlanta and Houston, but then followed with a four-game losing streak.
Although Scott would not divulge which players might see a reduced role, it’s safe to presume a few things.
Kobe Bryant’s role isn’t changing for obvious reasons including his star stature and league-leading 26.7 points per game average. Scott has called out the Lakers’ frontcourt, including Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer, for their inconsistent communication on defensive pick-and-rolls. On Sunday, Scott lamented that his team only executes those coverages properly 30 percent of the time. Scott has also said Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin doesn’t always appear comfortable running the offense. He also sat out the final 3:45 of the Lakers’ loss on Friday to Minnesota because of defensive struggles against Minnesota guards Zach LaVine and Mo Williams, whom combined for 43 points.
All of which leads Scott to where he is now.
“I’ve always been patient for whatever reason, but it’s a little bit like novocaine. Give it some time. It wears off sooner or later too. So does your patience,” Scott said. “Right now, I’m still patient. I am also starting to think about how short the leash is getting and when is the appropriate time to make those changes. In my mind, it’s going to happen.”
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