To this point of the season, Luke Walton has had to deal with minutes restrictions, suspensions, “volatile” executives and everything in between. This has helped lead to an insane number of lineup variations, which apparently is taking a toll on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, professional athletes are creatures of habit, so all the variance being a frustration shouldn’t really surprise anyone, particular as it pertains to the veterans on the roster. In Adrian Wojnarowski and and Dave McNenamin of ESPN’s report Friday morning, some of that annoyance was made public.
One area of discontent among some Lakers veterans is Walton’s repeated shuffling of lineups.
How many lineups? Per ESPN, “the Lakers have utilized 93 different lineups, behind only the Atlanta Hawks’ 122.” That’s a lot, but as LeBron James notes, the team still has to make it work.
Nevertheless, James rationalized Walton’s approach to the roster in the wake of the victory over Dallas on Wednesday.
”I think Luke’s trying to figure out what works best,” James said. “We knew it was going to be like that from the summer when ‘Zo had the knee surgery. We knew we were going to have a lineup change there. Obviously, we had the unexpected one when we had the suspensions, so we had a lineup change there....
”We’ll get to a point where we know how comfortable we need to be with different lineups.”
Let’s put it this way: It’d be exponentially more concerning if Walton wasn’t trying different lineups at this point.
The majority of Walton’s rotation heading into this season was not on the roster a year ago. Those who were are in the infancy of their NBA careers, outside of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Over the course of the remaining 74 games, Walton is tasked with finding and utilizing combinations that work. One literally cannot do that without trying new things.
That doesn’t mean he has endless time on this, by the way. He’s hopefully learned that he has six definite rotation players: LeBron James, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee and Josh Hart. Some combination of those guys should always be on the court.
Rajon Rondo, KCP and Lance Stephenson have made cases for playing time, but they need to do that consistently to prove they’re worthy of the playing time they probably want.
The larger point here is that: [pause for dramatic effect] THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS ARE EIGHT GAMES INTO THEIR SEASON AND IT WILL TAKE TIME TO FIGURE OUT WHO WILL WORK WELL TOGETHER.
That process has already started, mind you, and cannot be an overly arduous one extending for too much longer. But for right now, different combinations are going to be tried in an effort to find out what works. That’s just how this has to go, even if the players reportedly don’t love it.