Even if the result likely will not be documented in the history of the world, the game will mark the first step featuring a young roster that the Lakers hope will carry them back into NBA prosperity.
Who will represent that start when the Lakers host their first preseason game against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday at Anaheim’s Honda Center? Lakers coach Luke Walton left that question unanswered.
“It’s open,” Walton said. “I have an idea of who the frontrunners are. But we haven’t sat down to make a final decision yet.”
Walton already has proclaimed the 7-foot-1 Timofey Mozgov as “our starting center.” It seems safe to pencil in D’Angelo Russell as the starting point guard. Walton has already revealed he plans to bring rookie swingman Brandon Ingram off the bench in favor of 12-year NBA veteran Luol Deng.
The most intriguing question centered on whether third-year forward Julius Randle or second-year forward Larry Nance Jr. would start at power forward. Walton conceded he has “a lot of touch choices.” For Randle and Nance, both have emerged as athletic forwards, have spent most of the summer improving their mid-range game and have represent key leaders of the team’s young roster.
So, Walton has kept his options open between pairing them together and staggering their minutes.
“You’re not looking for individual things. You watch the game as a whole,” Walton said. “If they’re playing well in certain groups, there’s always chemistry between some players. Can Julius guard fives? Can Larry guard five?. Does a unit need a bigger and stronger player out there? Or do we need someone that can switch multiple positions? You look for all those things. You get the information, come to practice and see if it can work and game plan around that. Then you keep moving forward.”
Beyond that, Walton will not put much stock into the result. It is preseason, after all. Instead, Walton promised “we’ll give a lot of people playing time” without exceeding 30 minutes.
“We’re not going to coach them in a manner where winning is like it is like a lot of times in the regular season. We’ll put all sorts of coaching examples in the film we can pull,” Walton said. “We’re going to try different lineups out together. We’ll see if we can find a small lineup that works well together. We’ll find a big lineup that can switch everything. It’ll be more just getting to know the team.”