The designated day off following a slate of back-to-back games did not just give the Lakers time to rest. It also gave Lakers coach Byron Scott time to reflect on whether he would make any changes both to his starting lineup and his overall rotation.
And the verdict says…
“I like the way we’re playing from both units,” Scott said. “I’m going to stick with where it is right now.”
In other words, Kobe Bryant, Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Roy Hibbert will start at least for the next five games. Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell will still come off the bench whenever he heals a right ankle injury that will keep him out for Sunday’s game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. But after posting a career-high 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting and four assists in Thursday’s loss in Sacramento, what else does Russell need to do to reclaim his starting job back?
“If he can score 27 in the next five or six games,” Scott joked. “I don’t want to put that pressure on him. Then he might try to come out and shoot every time. It wasn’t just about him scoring. It was his aggressiveness and attention to detail and being at the right place on the defensive end. All of those things accumulated him into him having the game that he had. The scoring just made it look better. If he keeps playing like that, there will be a time.”
When that time will be remains to be seen. Scott said he will reevaluate his current lineup in “five-game increments,” though that does not guarantee any changes. Although he has shot only 41.4 percent from the field, Williams has averaged 25.6 points on 46.8 percent from the field in the past five games. That included a career-high 44-point performance on 12-of-25 shooting in Friday’s loss to Oklahoma City.
The competition seems less fierce between starting forward Larry Nance Jr and reserve forward Julius Randle. In the past four games, Randle has averaged three points on 13 percent shooting and 3.5 fouls in 22.5 minutes. In two of those games, Randle has logged more fouls than points. Meanwhile, Nance Jr. has averaged 9.8 points on 61.8 percent shooting and 9.0 rebounds in 23.2 minutes the past five contests.
“Larry is playing so well and Julius right now is struggling,” Scott said. “I want to get Julius where I get him more minutes to get him out of this rut so he can be the Julius I know he can be. But Larry is doing so well, it’s hard to make that change at that particular time.”
Scott reiterated “there will probably be a time” when both Nance Jr. and Randle play in the lineup together, a pairing Scott has said in the past week. But the only change he has made in the past two games entailed playing rookie forward Anthony Brown in place of Nick Young, something Scott plans to do likely at least for the next week.
But as Scott further decides if he will make changes, he said the thought process will go beyond bottom-line results or statistical performances.
“The cohesiveness is something I’m measuring and the intensity on the defensive end,” Scott said. “It’s not so much about wins and losses right now. It’s about progressing. We’re doing that on both ends of the floor. Our young guys are getting much better and are starting to get it.”