As injuries have mounted, the Los Angeles Lakers have utilized the “next man up” mentality to see what the reserves can produce in the absence of several players. The latest player to receive a starting opportunity was Devontae Cacok.
Without Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol, including Damian Jones, who the Lakers opted not to sign for the remainder of the season, the frontcourt depth became incredibly thin. Markieff Morris and Montrezl Harrell are the only healthy big men who have been mainstays in the rotation, but after starting Morris at center against Phoenix, head coach Frank Vogel diced things up the following game.
Cacok, one of the Lakers’ two-way players, received his first career NBA start against the New Orleans Pelicans. The 24-year-old big man has played only eight games this season, mostly in garbage time situation, but against New Orleans, he logged a career-high 13 minutes.
The downside to his start was the matchup, as the Pelicans dominated the Lakers in the paint, and Cacok, at 6’7″, was oftentimes out-matched in the blowout loss. Still, he explained how the moment is one to cherish.
“It was a great experience for me,” Cacok said. “First time being able to start for an NBA team, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. A lot of adrenaline, of course, first time doing it and I was just excited for that opportunity. I just wanted to go out there and have fun and just enjoy the whole journey and process of being out there.”
Since Cacok isn’t normally in the rotation when the Lakers are fully healthy, this moment might not have materialized if that was the case. However, Cacok didn’t think about that and explained how he stayed ready for this occasion.
“Not at all,” Cacok said. “I’m on the best team in the NBA, in the world. I’ll take my time and understand I don’t need all that. I was prepared, I’m gonna stay prepared. Being able to get a chance, regardless of what the situation may be, is not gonna knock me down. I’m still gonna go out there just as if I was up there in the rotation.
“I just take it game by game, do what I can do and regardless of the situation, I’m still gonna give it everything I got.”
Talen Horton-Tucker facing great growth opportunity with Lakers
Cacok isn’t the only member of the Lakers receiving a crucial opportunity to showcase their talent. Talen Horton-Tucker, the 20-year-old combo guard, turned heads after a majestic preseason and has been significantly involved in the rotation.
But in the absence of LeBron James, Horton-Tucker has more opportunities to handle the ball and create for others, and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained how this is a pivotal developmental period for the youngster.
“It’s a great growth opportunity,” Vogel said. “He makes a lot of things happen off the bounce, getting to the paint. He’s not always perfect with his reads. He’s a young player, but that’s what you get with a young player. I just like his aggressiveness and he’s really going to grow during this stretch.”
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