Why Luke Walton will start Nick Young over D’Angelo Russell against Houston

Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young #0 celebrates after making the game winning 3-pointer. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-109 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 11/22/2016. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

HOUSTON — For as much stock Lakers coach Luke Walton has put in maximizing opportunities for his young players, he has his limitations.

Walton will start veteran Nick Young for when the Lakers (20-47) visit the Houston Rockets (46-21) on Wednesday at Toyota Center, putting second-year guard D’Angelo Russell off the bench for the second consecutive game. Walton had entertained pairing Russell and third-year guard Jordan Clarkson in the starting lineup together before deciding otherwise.

“I’m sure before the season is over, we’ll get to that lineup,” Walton said. “But D’Angelo is our point guard. If we’re trying to see what Jordan can do as the primary ball handler at point guard, let’s see what it looks like from a traditional lineup out there.”

Russell and Clarkson had recently supported the idea of the pair playing together with their roles reversed. While Russell would play off the ball, Clarkson would have ball-handling responsibilities. When the pair played together with Russell at point guard and Clarkson at shooting guard, Walton admitted the combination did not work well. In the 8.5 minutes per game Russell and Clarkson averaged together through 47 appearances, the Lakers averaged 17.8 points while shooting 41.8 percent from the field and 29.1 percent from 3-point range, according to NBA.com.

Nonetheless, Walton said he will feature Russell at shooting guard spot with Clarkson at times against the Rockets in staggered minutes. At other times, Russell will handle point guard responsibilities with the Lakers’ reserves.

Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Young has sat the past two games so Walton could grant more minutes to David Nwaba, who’s in the middle of his second 10-day contract. But with Young averaging 13.4 points on 43.4 percent shooting, Walton has not ruled shutting him down yet for the remainder of the season.

“We’re going to continue to try to get the young guys as much experience as possible. At the same time, we want to try to play and win games,” Walton said. “The way Nick played for us this year, we’re going to keep putting him in throughout the remainder of the season and then take him out for more experience for some young guys.”


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” Lakers podcast on iTunes.

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