With both Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo suspended for the next few games, the Los Angeles Lakers had a couple of holes to fill in their starting lineup.
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There were plenty of choices for replacements as head coach Luke Walton could go young with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart or Kyle Kuzma, or trust a veteran such as Lance Stephenson or Michael Beasley.
One major difficulty in losing Ingram and Rondo is the playmaking factor. They double as two of the team’s best playmakers, capable of creating shots for themselves and others and replacing them for Monday night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs would be no easy task.
But Walton has made that decision by announcing Ball and Kuzma will be inserted into the lineup while Rondo and Ingram are out, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
Luke Walton says Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma will fill in for Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram while they serve their suspensions.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 22, 2018
Just as important as that announcement is the fact that Ball will not be on a minutes restriction. Even though he has said he is 100 percent since returning from offseason knee surgery, the Lakers have been playing it safe and limiting his minutes. That will no longer be the case.
The pressure will be on the two second-year players to perform with the starters as the Lakers look to avoid an 0-3 start. Ball and Kuzma have been relatively inconsistent so far this year, with Kuzma shooting just 35.7 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three-point range.
Ball looked much improved in the Lakers’ second contest and will look to build on that in the coming week. The move also pushes LeBron James down to the small forward position as he is better suited to defend on the perimeter than Kuzma.
Walton will also need to alter his bench rotation as Beasley, rookie Svi Mykhailiuk, or possibly two-way player Alex Caruso could see expanded roles.