The Los Angeles Lakers have been hard at work during training camp as they look to integrate several new pieces under head coach Darvin Ham.
So far, Ham has preached the importance of defense as the team’s key to success for the 2022-23 season and the players have echoed their coach’s words. With the defense comes who will be starting off games for the Lakers and right now there are a couple of spots up for grabs.
The projected starting lineup figures to include LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, but Ham revealed that Kendrick Nunn and Damian Jones have been the other two players playing alongside them the most so far in practices, via Jovan Buha of The Athletic:
Darvin Ham said the most used starting lineup in practices has been Damian Jones, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Kendrick Nunn and Russell Westbrook. But he clarifies he hasn’t decided on a five-man group yet.
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) September 30, 2022
Ham later went on to explain why Nunn and Jones have been getting those looks and how they fit alongside the team’s stars:
“With Kendrick, you got a really big-time catch-and-shoot player, also a player that can play pick-and-roll, and also a player that can score at all three levels. He can score at the rim, he can score in the mid-range and he can score from three, as I mentioned before. And he’s like a little water bug defensively. He can squeeze through pick-and-rolls, he can avoid screens, he can chase, he’s athletic, he gets good contests on shots.
“Damian is just a really young, athletic big. He runs like a deer. He can jump to the ceiling. Really defensive-minded, tries to protect the rim, sets good screens, rolls hard, creating a constant threat at the rim. Again, being a presence in the paint defensively. So those attributes between those two guys, it fits perfect.”
With the season still a few weeks away, Ham acknowledged that he and the coaching staff are trying a variety of different lineup combinations to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Coming from the Milwaukee Bucks, who valued floor spacing and rim protection, it seems that Ham is choosing to go with someone like Nunn to add a little more outside shooting to the lineup while Jones gives him a traditional shot-blocking big man.
Jones is competing with Thomas Bryant for the starting center spot and either of those two would make for a fine fit next to Davis. But seeing Nunn ahead of someone like Patrick Beverley is a little surprising given L.A. is reportedly looking at the latter as someone who will likely guard wings throughout the season. Beverley is one of the few proven defenders on the roster who has a clear role, so perhaps this is just a matter of Ham tinkering around.
The Lakers’ first preseason game is on Monday against the Sacramento Kings and it’ll be interesting to see if Ham indeed rolls with Nunn and Jones as his starters.
Kendrick Nunn feeling better than before knee injury
Nunn is one of the wild cards for the Lakers as he was forced to sit the entire 2021-22 season with a bone bruise in his knee. Coming into the year, it was a question of how healthy he would be but he managed to get through day 1 of training camp pain-free and even went so far as to say that he’s feeling better than before his injury.
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