Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton has had to resort to some creative lineup and rotation juggling in the wake of injuries to Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram over the last week, something he might have to do more of given his revelation that he doesn’t expect either player back this season.
In their absence, Walton has been forced to re-insert Tyler Ennis into the team’s rotation with a significant role, while also giving two-way contract player Alex Caruso the starting point guard spot just so the Lakers have enough ball-handlers in their rotation.
The other change Walton has had to make is using Julius Randle more as a pseudo point guard, or point-forward, simply because he’s one of the few players still standing who can do it.
“We tried running Julius at the point tonight, and he actually looked pretty good at it. He made some plays for us. But I think that kind of got him out of his beast-mode rhythm that he’s been in later on in the game.”
Randle did do a solid job playmaking for the Lakers, posting nine assists to go with his 12 rebounds and 12 points against the Jazz in a near triple-double, but he also had five turnovers, which he lamented following the game:
“Coach asked me to be more of a distributor, so I kind of tried to distribute a little bit more but I had too many turnovers. It’s tough. We rely on those guys (Ball and Ingram) heavily to make plays for us, so it was hard.”
That difficulty did lead to Randle fading late, as Walton mentioned, as he managed just four points and one assist in nearly nine minutes in the fourth quarter as the Jazz pushed back against every Lakers run.
Still, Randle said he’s prepared to play the same role again if Walton needs him to:
“It really wasn’t different. I think I was in that role a little bit last year as far as playmaking and all that type of stuff. This year it’s been a little bit different,” Randle said.
Randle being comfortable playing outside of how the team has normally used him this year is good, but it also doesn’t matter, because they don’t have a whole lot of other options until Ingram and Ball come back.
At least now when they do return, the Lakers will have a potentially more varied offensive attack with Randle being forced to stretch his playmaking muscles once again.