The Los Angeles Lakers have looked like a completely different team since the trade deadline. New acquisitions D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt have boosted a roster that suffered from a lack of 3-point shooting and wing defenders. In turn, it has left head coach Darvin Ham with some difficult rotational decisions.
Though Ham at first preferred to keep Dennis Schroder in the starting lineup alongside Russell, LeBron’s return prompted him to shift things around. He inserted Beasley and Vanderbilt in the lineup next to James and Anthony Davis, which meant removing Schroder, Lonnie Walker IV and Patrick Beverley, who was dealt away.
The Lakers have looked like a different team with that lineup, one that Ham reflected on before the win against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.
“I think just the speed and obviously the capable shooters we have now in DLo and Beas. The versatility of Vando, his ability to get us extra possessions,” he said. “I think they all fit well together. They played well together, the numbers say so when they were in Minnesota. Having them around AD and Bron also makes their lives a little easier.”
The Lakers have had 30 different starting lineups this season in 60 games. James and Davis have started alongside a variety of combinations, although that has never been what Ham wanted. The head coach has said from the beginning of the year that he would like a set starting lineup to create some stability, and now he may finally how it.
“Most definitely. When you go into a game and you know what slot you’re in, whether that’s starting or somewhere in the rotation, yeah,” Ham said. “Not having that extra stress of who’s gonna be out tonight or am I gonna be moved into the starting lineup, how many minutes am I gonna play… Guys get to settle into their roles and they really get to go out and enhance their performance even more knowing which slots they’re gonna come in and who’s gonna be on the floor with them.”
But, it’s easier said than done to keep the same core group starting. Injuries, player performance and roster changes are all factors that throw a wrench in plans. Russell already suffered an ankle injury against the Warriors and is considered day-to-day.
In recent years, the Lakers have struggled with exactly that — players getting injured that harm finding consistent starting lineups next to their stars. Last season, L.A. had 41 different starting lineups, a new one for every other game.
Making sure the roster is stable going into next season is a priority for Ham.
“I think it’s extremely important. We came into this year calling it an excavation process of trying to relay the foundation or trying to stabilize the foundation of this program to what this franchise is all about and that’s winning,” he said. “It’s had its challenges and we expected it, so I think now having these new additions with young. high-level talent to go around our two big dogs in Bron and AD, I think the future is extremely bright and we’re all excited about it. But as of right now, we got a great team across the hall that we need to deal with tonight.”
So far, so good for the new-look Lakers.
Malik Beasley praises Lakers’ depth, describes energy around them as “immaculate”
New Laker Malik Beasley had his best game in purple and gold against the Warriors. He dropped a team-high 25 points, equaling the total combined by LeBron and Davis.
The Lakers spread the wealth in their win with multiple double-digit outings. It was arguably L.A.’s most complete game of the season. LeBron and Davis also played season lows in minutes with the latter never entering in the fourth as the game was put away. For Beasley, it emphasized just how deep the Lakers are.
“It definitely could be any guy. We’re deep as a team,” Beasley said after the win. “We’ve got starters coming off the bench. Just the fact that DLo didn’t even finish the game, we’ve got so many threats. Like you said, AD and LeBron didn’t get going as much as they wanted to tonight. But we’re deep and I think that’s the statement we’re going to make. If it’s not one player, it’s another player any given night.”
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