Los Angeles Lakers Plan To Stick With New Starting Lineup
The Los Angeles Lakers made changes to their starting lineup against the New York Knicks and intend to stick with the new lineup.
The Los Angeles Lakers handed out a lot of money to veterans in the offseason. Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng signed lucrative deals with the Lakers as free agents this past summer. Mozgov agreed to a four-year, $64 million deal while Deng signed for four years and $72 million.
Despite those signings, the direction has always been clear for the Lakers with Luke Walton at the helm; build for the future. That sometimes results in a lot of losing, which the Lakers have done this season.
Heading into Monday’s game against the New York Knicks, the Lakers were 17-36. With the playoffs seemingly out of reach, Walton decided now was the time to truly start the youth movement.
Against the Knicks, Walton made some drastic changes to the starting lineup. Despite being the two highest-paid players on the team, Mozgov and Deng were removed from the starting lineup in favor of two youngsters; rookie Brandon Ingram and third-year big man Tarik Black.
Deng was asked his feelings about the move. He responded with, “Does it matter?” knowing the direction that the team wants to head in.
“The whole year I knew it was about young guys,” Deng said. “Everybody knows that. We’ve got a lot of talent in this locker room and we want to develop the young guys.”
It was a group decision for the changes to be made. Walton discussed the change with executive vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak in recent days and both were receptive of the idea.
The money that Mozgov and Deng received was part of the discussion according to Walton. But, he wasn’t going to let their contracts dictate the decisions he made on the court.
“It comes to mind,” Walton said, “but it always comes back to what I think is best for the team. Not only right at this moment, but the future of the team. We try to make our decisions based on that, not on the salaries.”
Things could not have started off much worse for Ingram. Less than two minutes into the game, Ingram was fouled and went to the foul line. In front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd, Ingram stepped to the line to do something he has done thousands of times.
What ensued next probably hasn’t happened much to Ingram, as he air balled his free throw.
“I think somebody opened a window,” Ingram jokingly said.
Ingram was probably feeling some nerves in the start. It may have been his 15th career start, but he admitted prior to the game that it wasn’t the same this time around.
“It’s different. I know before it was starting at a point guard when someone was hurt, but just try to make the best, try to take advantage of it and try to be aggressive and be great on the defensive end.”
The air ball would be the low point of the night for Ingram, as the changes to the lineup resulted in a victory.
The Lakers would blow out the Knicks at Madison Square Garden 121-107. They would lead by as many as 27 points in the game, taking control from the opening tip and maintaining it throughout the night. It also snapped a 12-game road losing streak.
Ingram played a big part in the victory, as he responded right away from the embarrassing free throw.
His next two shot attempts were three-pointers, both of which he made. He finished the game with 14 points, one of seven Lakers in double-figures, with seven rebounds. His ability to bounce back so quickly is something that Walton liked to see.
“That’s one of the things I like most about Brandon … which is why I think he’s going to have a lot of success in this league,” Walton said. “He trusts who he is as a player. But I thought he had a really good overall night for his first time playing in this building.”
It was only one game, but through one game the move has worked. It was a good first game and the group will receive a chance to develop. But, the coaching staff will still be evaluating things on a game-to-game basis.
“I’m not going to say it’s permanent,” he said, “but we’re going to see how it goes. If they come out and have a bad first quarter, we’re not going to just blow it all up and go to the other starting lineup to start the second half. We know they’re young and that’s part of why we’re doing it.”
The Lakers look to be a great position with Walton as the head coach. They have shown some good flashes this season and now they are fully committing to some of the young players receiving big minutes.
While lineup changes could happen again down the road, Ingram is one player that should stay in the starting five. Los Angeles has high hopes for the rookie and his ceiling is sky high.
He is now being given a chance to be the starting small forward and it would not be surprising to see him take the job and run away with it.
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