Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton has played 132 different five-man lineups this season, only 12 of which have been on the court for more than 10 minutes together thus far. At times Walton has played the hot hand. In other instances he’s reacted to foul trouble.
Walton’s preference is to have a more set rotation, but the Lakers’ young roster — and an injury to Larry Nance Jr. — have prevented that from becoming commonplace. Nonetheless, Walton sees some positives in how the team operates.
“It is kind of fun shuffling around and finding guys that are ready to go,” he said recently. “I think ideally, you get your routine set for guys to know when they’re coming in and coming out again. But that’s a luxury we don’t have right now.
“We’re still in the process of teaching and learning. I think it’s good for them to know that they better be locked in and ready to go. Zu got in for three minutes [Tuesday]. Whether you think you’re playing or not, when you get called on, you better be ready.”
While Lonzo Ball had previously sat out the fourth quarter on two separate occasions, and appeared bound for a third instance, Walton felt inclined to call on his point guard to further aid the comeback.
“We were expecting what we got, which was him to making winning plays,” Walton said.
Most truly great teams have set, defined roles for the majority of their main contributors. Some players outside of that core grouping might be called upon occasionally, but they’re counted on as professionals to be ready for that moment rather than being given token minutes here and there as a reward.
The Lakers aren’t that level of team yet, which means not only does Walton have more freedom to experiment and try and find the best lineups that can gain them even a small edge, but he can also teach the young players about staying ready by doing things like throwing Ivica Zubac out for three unexpected minutes and seeing how he fares.
No matter how it works out, it’s all part of his development process as a young coach, and the Lakers’ development process as a young team.
WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DISCUSSION? CHECK OUT THE NEW LAKERS NATION FORUM CLUB