The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night despite head coach Luke Walton putting arguably his five best players in the starting lineup for the first time this season.
However, the starting five of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee was just one of the 24 five-man lineups used against the Timberwolves on Monday, according to NBA.com. Alternatively, the Timberwolves only used 10 lineups against the Lakers, with their starters playing 19 minutes together. The Lakers’ starters played just eight minutes together.
At practice on Tuesday, Lonzo Ball told reporters that the revolving door that is Walton’s rotations is a product of the team still trying to figure things out (via Lakers.com):
“I think you can see that we’re all trying to figure it out with the lineups changing all the time. We have a lot of talent on this team, we know that, but we have to make it all come together.”
The Lakers looked like they had tapped into their full potential last week when they moved Ball, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma into the starting lineup. While Ball and Kuzma stayed with the first unit, Hart was moved back to the bench once Ingram returned from serving a four-game suspension.
When asked what he thought about the constantly changing lineups, Hart said his only job is to stay ready:
“I don’t know, That’s Luke’s job to figure those things out, and we have to be ready when our name is called.”
For players entering only their second years in the league, Ball and Hart have large roles with this Lakers squad, but Ball recognizes the expectations that come with being on a team that is supposed to win games also mean that there is no time for young players to play through mistakes:
“We just got so many guys so if you’re not doing your job, you’re going to get pulled quick. That’s how it is, so whoever’s clicking that day is going to play.”
Hart is also understanding of the team’s lofty expectations, and said his teammates hold themselves to the same standard when they’re on the floor.
“I think we knew it would take time, but I think all of us want to win and are competitive so we’ve got to get it now.”
Walton said he was happy with his new starting five for “most of the game” but he plans to evaluate it later, which might mean he’ll roll out the same lineup Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks.
It’s been a slow process for the Lakers so far, but it’s still early enough in the season for them to make those mistakes. Until they find what works, Walton will throw players out on the floor — and lineups at the proverbial wall — until something sticks.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.