The Los Angeles Lakers have brought excitement to their fans this season as, despite expectations being low, they have started off 4-4 including a win over the Golden State Warriors. Additionally, in all four of their losses they have been in the game in the fourth quarter, playing competitive basketball throughout.
First-year head coach Luke Walton has messed around with his rotations a lot so far, as the Lakers are an extremely deep team featuring a mix of young players and veterans. In many games Walton has gone with young players such as D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Brandon Ingram along with veterans Nick Young and Lou Williams to close out games, leaving veteran starters Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov on the bench.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, while Deng obviously would like to be on the floor to close out games, he is not questioning Walton’s decisions:
“That’s the coach’s decision,” said Deng. “That’s not for me to think about or go over. I mean, that’s why he’s the head coach. They have to make that decision.”
Mozgov echoed Deng’s thoughts:
“It doesn’t matter, young or old or new, you as a player want to play. It’s simple. It’s always a challenge because you always want to play,” Mozgov said. “I believe [in] the coach and what he’s doing, I have no question for him.”
Deng is averaging 25.3 minutes per game this season and Mozgov is averaging 20.9, so they are still getting their fair share of opportunities to show Walton what they are capable of. Los Angeles currently has nine different players averaging at least 20 minutes per game.
With a roster as deep as the Lakers have Walton said that he is going to go with the hot hands to close out games and in his eyes that’s who has earned it.
The ultimate goal of this season is the development of the team’s young core, though, so that also probably will play a factor throughout the course of the season in regards to who finishes games.