Without their two top playmakers in the lineup, the Los Angeles Lakers were able to muster a 109-94 victory on Sunday night over the Atlanta Hawks. While D’Angelo Russell continues to rest his knee, Julius Randle has battled through a nagging hip injury.
Head coach Luke Walton has had to alter his starting lineup these past few contests, attempting to keep the cohesiveness of the bench unit, while not giving his starters a noticeable disadvantage. The Lakers wrapped up a set of six homes games in seven contests and came out of it still at .500 with a 9-9 record.
The Lakers completed a season sweep of the Hawks on Sunday, which was led by the performance of the bench unit, alongside Nick Young. Young’s confidence in his shot was a welcomed sight (after missing a game), while Lou Williams caught fire in the fourth quarter.
During this span without Russell or Randle, the role players have had to step up tremendously. Although Russell won’t play during the four-game road trip this week, Randle’s status remains up in the air.
According to Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com, Randle stated that the minimal pain isn’t something he wants to linger more than necessary:
“It’s easy to play through injury, but I don’t want it to get worse and then affect us in the long run when we’re trying to fight for a playoff spot or seeding and I’m not there because I didn’t take care of a nagging injury 20 games into the season.”
This outlook on Randle is the same that Russell has taken in regards to his injury. The clear-cut two stars in the making for the franchise shouldn’t risk an extended injury to participate on contests earlier in the season.
Walton and the organization don’t want to pamper their players, but also don’t want to exhaust or over use them. The consistent emergence from the bench thus far this season has eased the minutes the starters have played.
When asked what Randle’s injury consists of, Walton reiterated that the sharp pain is something that takes time to heal:
“It’s still nothing that’s going to turn into a serious injury,” Walton said. “You just can’t play basketball if every time you cut you get a sharp pain. It’s just taking longer.”
Every player has a different recovery rate, even when dealing with the same injury. With the Lakers down Russell, and potentially Randle this week, Walton stated that the use of the rotation will be crucial.
With four games in a five-day span, the endurance and energy of the young core of the Lakers will be tested. Randle is currently being listed as questionable for the first of those four games, a trip to New Orleans to play the Pelicans.