Some positive health news finally went the Los Angeles Lakers’ way on Sunday afternoon as they got young guard Talen Horton-Tucker back into the lineup. After missing the team’s first 13 games due to a thumb injury, he made his debut on Sunday and was immediately placed into the starting lineup by head coach Frank Vogel.
Horton-Tucker took the place of Kent Bazemore in the team’s starting five after a difficult stretch of games for the veteran three-and-D guard. The assumption was that Bazemore would move to a significant bench role, as his defense is still hugely beneficial for L.A.
Instead, Bazemore — along with DeAndre Jordan — did not play a single minute, receiving a DNP by way of coach’s decision. Vogel opted to go with a nine-man rotation as the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs in what was one of the most complete games of the Lakers season.
Vogel gave some insight as to why Bazemore went from a starter to not playing at all and what it could mean for him moving forward.
“Really, Talen. We wanted to get Talen back in there. Baze is gonna be a big part of what we do, but Malik and Wayne have been playing really well off the bench. Baze is still gonna be a big part of what we do but Talen coming back into the lineup was the factor there.”
Taking minutes away from Malik Monk and Wayne Ellington would not be prudent at the moment. On Sunday, Monk played 27 minutes and Ellington played 30. Combined, they scored 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting and 7-of-11 from three. Horton-Tucker, meanwhile, scored 17 points in 27 minutes and was a team-high plus-14.
Sunday’s win was just not a game for Bazemore, as the alternative options at his position played extremely good games. These are the types of decisions that Vogel is going to need to continue making as players get healthy.
LeBron James, Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves and Trevor Ariza all remain sidelined with injury, meaning things aren’t going to get easier in terms of managing the rotation. Bazemore is one of the team’s better defenders, but if he is in a massive slump offensively, he may be one of the quickest to get a DNP.
Vogel has long said that the regular season is a time to experiment with various lineup combinations in preparation for the playoffs, so his benching likely won’t be permanent. However, his minutes will be a storyline to watch as the team continues to get healthy.
Vogel explains putting Carmelo Anthony in starting lineup
Horton-Tucker’s debut also saw the debut of a brand new starting lineup that included him, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Avery Bradley, and Carmelo Anthony. Anthony served as the de-facto James replacement in this unit, with Vogel saying that the move was a no-brainer.
“It just made sense,” Vogel said. “When LeBron went out, we thought about sliding AD to the five, but with LeBron out and with Trevor out, we liked the rhythm that Melo had coming off the bench and I just think it’s time to look at him in the starting lineup.”
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