After one mediocre preseason first half (and one terrible second half that shouldn’t really count) on Monday, new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham is wasting no time in spicing up his starting lineup.
Ham trotted out the starting five he had established in training camp in L.A.’s 105-75 blowout loss to the visiting Sacramento Kings on Monday: Russell Westbrook at point guard, Kendrick Nunn at shooting guard, LeBron James at small forward, Anthony Davis at power forward, and Damian Jones at center.
Tonight, for L.A.’s second preseason game against the visiting Phoenix Suns, Ham is already switching things up, as he looks to experiment with a new small ball approach. Most importantly, he’s set to start the team’s clear third-best player (with apologies to Brodie).
Mike Trudell of Lakers.com reports that Ham is elevating that third-best player, Patrick Beverley, to the starting lineup, as well as second-year shooting guard Austin Reaves.
But Russell Westbrook, last season’s much-maligned primary point guard, will remain in the starting lineup!
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Trudell reveals that L.A. will trot out the 6’3″ Westbrook, 6’1″ Beverley, and 6’5″ Reaves along the perimeter, with 6’9″ LeBron James moving up a position to power forward. 6’10” Anthony Davis had been expect to start at center, but wound up being a late scratch due to lower back tightness, per Marc Stein. Intending to sit Davis ahead of time is all well and good, but it’s a bit concerning that the injury-prone big man is a last-minute injury absence.
Instead, Trudell reports that 6’9″ power forward Wenyen Gabriel will jump center tonight, in keeping with the small ball theme.
6’2″ combo guard Kendrick Nunn, who started in the backcourt alongside Westbrook on Monday, and 6’11” center Damian Jones, find themselves demoted to the bench.
Per Trudell, Ham mentioned that he intends to take a look at several different rotations heading into the regular season. This is a solid plan given how new the rest of this roster is.
Only James and Davis’s starting jobs should be secure when the games start to count. L.A. needs to maximize spacing and defense around these players, which could prove to be a tough task given the limitations of this particular roster.
Starting Beverley, at least, is a great step, as he is one of the club’s few players who can excel on both ends of the court. Reaves, significantly bigger than Nunn and already a better defender in his short NBA career, makes sense as another starter, although he is not the same level of floor spacer (he made just 31.7% of his triples last season, as opposed to Nunn’s 36.4% career mark).
On the injury front beyond the Brow, Trudell reports that both Lonnie Walker IV and Troy Brown Jr. remain out with an ankle and back injury, respectively. He adds that Walker may be able to suit up tomorrow, against Beverley’s former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism