Head coach Frank Vogel has his work cut out for him as the Los Angeles Lakers are set to restart the season in hopes of winning an NBA championship.
The Lakers went into the Walt Disney World bubble without starter Avery Bradley, who chose to opt out, and then lost reserve guard Rajon Rondo to a broken thumb in one of their first practices. It’s left Vogel and the coaching staff to sort through options for a new rotation.
The Lakers still have a number of guards at their disposal in the backcourt, but figuring out which ones are best and work together will be a difficult decision. At least one part seems to be figured out as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will likely be assuming the starting role.
“I’m pretty sure KCP will start,” Vogel reiterated. “Obviously, we’re going to reserve on making final decisions until we get closer to real games, but he was so good for us during that stretch when Avery was out earlier int he year.”
Though primarily a reserve, Caldwell-Pope has started 20 games this season and his numbers were improved when compared to comping off the bench. He averaged 11.1 points while shooting 51.3% from the field and 43.4% from 3-point range as a starter.
But many others will be relied upon and are fighting for their opportunity to play a bigger role. “A lot of guys are making cases for extended roles,” Vogel added. “Particularly Alex Caruso, Quinn Cook. Dion and JR have come in and showed what they can do as well. Those guys are really good players.
“They compete on the defensive end, all four of those guys can play with or without the basketball offensively. We have a lot of options. Avery and Rondo are huge losses, but we’ve got a lot of weapons and a lot of ways we can go with it.”
With Rondo being out six to eight weeks, Caruso was a player who many immediately assumed would fill a bigger role, especially as the team’s next best playmaker.
Cook meanwhile, hasn’t played as much this season, but has stepped up when called upon and is a great shooter with championship experience.
Most eyes will certainly be on JR Smith and Dion Waiters as the two veterans have yet to suit up for the Lakers, but will now be even more crucial with Bradley and Rondo out. What they can bring to the table will be watched closely and anything they can contribute will be greatly appreciated.
Kyle Kuzma ‘dominated’ stretches of practice
Lost in the attention the backcourt is getting after the losses of Bradley and Rondo, third-year forward Kyle Kuzma could turn out to be the Lakers’ biggest x-factor. Kuzma has been extremely inconsistent this season, but been outstanding in Orlando practices thus far.
“Kuz has been one of our best players since the restart in these practices,” Vogel said. “He’s had a couple of stretches where he just dominated the floor. It’s been really encouraging to see. We’re very encouraged and excited about what having a healthy training camp could mean for him. Hopefully that leads to an increased role and gives us that boost we’re looking for.”
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