The Los Angeles Lakers were without four of their major rotation pieces in their last game of the first half of the season against the Sacramento Kings. This opened up a major opportunity for players who haven’t seen major minutes this season and no one took more advantage than Alfonzo McKinnie.
Head coach Frank Vogel turned to McKinnie against the Kings and he responded with a season-high 11 points to go along with two rebounds and a steal, but the Lakers couldn’t quite overcome their injury losses in a 123-120 loss. H
McKinnie had some impressive defensive moments as well and undoubtedly looked like someone who could be a contributor down the line.
Following the game, Vogel praised the young wing for taking advantage of the opportunity.
“Yeah, well he’s a good player and he’s been sort of buried with our depth here. But he’s maintained a great attitude, been a true pro coming in to put his work in every day, really trying to show what he can do in the practices and pick-up games, guys playing on off days,” Vogel said.
“We’ve been looking for an opportunity to get him in there without supplanting one of the rotation guys and tonight was the night. It was a good opportunity for it and I thought he played really well, especially crashing the boards, he made a couple buckets for us, played solid defense and really made a case for more minutes.”
Acquired in the offseason as part of the JaVale McGee trade, McKinnie has basically only seen the floor in garbage time this season. The fourth-year player is known as a solid defensive wing and does have playoff experience, appearing in 22 playoff games as a member of the Golden State Warriors in 2019.
If McKinnie were to slide into the rotation it would almost certainly be at the expense of Wesley Matthews, who has struggled for much of the year. Matthews was scoreless against the Kings, making it four straight contests without a point and five of his last six games. Additionally, Matthews is shooting a career-low from three-point range, which has been one of the biggest calling cards throughout his career.
McKinnie doesn’t have the physical strength that Matthews has, which comes in handy against some bigger wings, but he is much quicker on the perimeter, allowing him to potentially defend quicker guards that Matthews struggles against. If McKinnie is able to be adequate from three-point range, Vogel could potentially have another rotation player deserving of minutes.
There are already 11 players fighting for minutes, putting Vogel in a difficult position when it comes to rotations. Now McKinnie could be making it even tougher moving forward.
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The absence of LeBron James definitely opened the door for McKinnie’s opportunity that he stepped up to the plate for. The game was the first one James missed this season and something that seems to have been building for some time.
James has soldiered through the first half of the season, but Vogel believes the Lakers superstar was in need of the upcoming break. “We’ve had a mindset to encourage him to take a game off if needed and support him if he wants to be in there,” Vogel said.
“He’s always said if his body feels good, he wants to play. He’s pretty banged up right now with the soreness in the ankle and we took this opportunity to keep him home this game.”
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