With Anthony Davis sitting out and Thomas Bryant still recovering from injury, the Los Angeles Lakers were lacking in size against the Minnesota Timberwolves who boast a ‘Twin Towers’ lineup featuring Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. With little else to turn to, head coach Darvin Ham went small down the stretch, playing LeBron James at the center position.
This is something that worked at times for the Lakers last season, but it did not help the Lakers get their first win of the season in Minnesota on this night. But LeBron did put forth another great effort, finishing the game with 28 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Going small against the Timberwolves’ massive lineup was unexpected, but Ham liked what he saw and after the game said that the LeBron-at-center lineup is something he will have to take a close look at, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Like we went small towards the end of the game, and that’s another lineup that I’m gonna play close attention to and take good looks at, with Bron at the 5. Having Russ cross-match with the opposing team’s bigs is something I’ma look at. It was a great rhythm to the game tonight, it just sucks that, I wish we could have some of those turnovers back, turn them into field goal attempts.”
While going to this lineup undoubtedly had at least something to do with the lack of size available, Ham also added that even when healthy he will consider going with the LeBron-led small ball lineup if the situation calls for it:
“Yea absolutely. You use everything that’s available to you within your roster. It’s not one of those things where, ‘you got big guys available, why not play a big guy’ no it’s a strategic type of deal. You have guys that’s in a really good rhythm together, that’s having great individual games and you try to put those collections of players together to see if that rhythm can carry over to a unit. I thought that was the case for big chunks of the game tonight. We stayed in the game, basically the entire game. It was some times they got a little bit of distance, but for the most part we fought, fought, fought, and fought and just came up a little bit short. Five games in it sucks to be 0-5, but having 77 left and then plenty of days to get better in between, we’re jus gonna try to keep our heads down and keep our foot to the pedal and continuously try to get better. Get better at something every day.”
There will be times for the Lakers to turn to any number of lineups throughout the season and with the team struggling, Ham experimenting with anything at this point makes sense in order to get the Lakers a victory. But James’ versatility and basketball IQ allow him to operate anywhere and Ham will use that to his advantage.
Ham looks forward to seeing more of Westbrook in bench role
Another role that was seen for the first time under Ham was Russell Westbrook coming off the bench for the Lakers. It certainly seemed to help Westbrook as he had his best game of the early season and Ham was very happy with what he saw.
Ham noted that the effort showed not only how Westbrook can impact the game himself, but also help to raise his teammates as the entire bench unit had a good outing. With this being the expected move for the foreseeable future, Ham will have plenty of time to tweak the rotations to get the most out of the entire Lakers roster.
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