Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton made it clear he is approaching the preseason as an extension of training camp. With a roster that features five new players via free agency and two from the 2018 NBA Draft, there’s plenty of continuity that needs to be developed.
Within that, Walton said he would evaluate various lineup combinations, including those in which the Lakers played small. Walton did as much in Sunday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets.
There were moments where Michael Beasley and Kyle Kuzma attempted to contain talented big man Nikola Jokic. “There was tough moments out there. But like I said before, we’re going to stick with it. We’re not going to overreact,” Walton said of his lineups.
“We know a lot of these guys are playing out of position. They’ve had some reps in practice but they hadn’t gone against other NBA guys. We knew that it could get frustrating, and it was at times, but we also had moments where it was really good. We got stops and were able to get out and run and see what that can look like.”
Walton and LeBron James both emphasized the team needing to rebound well if they are to have any success with small-ball lineups. Walton noted lapses in that area Sunday night.
“And then I thought we had four or five chances to have more possessions [to run], that we let rebounds hit the ground and we weren’t the ones to go get those,” he explained. “So we fought really hard defensively but didn’t finish out the possession.”
Ultimately, Walton was generally pleased with his team’s effort despite trailing by as 15 points in the second quarter and 23 in the fourth. They briefly held a two-point lead in the third quarter.
“We just have to get more consistent,” Walton said.