After a successful offseason in which they added a lot of quality depth, there were some question marks regarding what the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup would look like.
Darvin Ham put a lot of those questions to rest before training camp even started, however, naming four of his starters in D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That left one spot open with Jarred Vanderbilt, Taurean Prince and Rui Hachimura among those in the mix.
Unfortunately though, Vanderbilt has been dealing with some heel soreness and missed the Lakers’ final five preseason games. While it’s not a serious injury, Ham revealed that Vanderbilt is unlikely to be ready for Tuesday’s season opener against the Denver Nuggets.
It has been Prince, not Hachimura, that has been starting in Vanderbilt’s place, so to no surprise, Ham announced him as the fifth starter on Tuesday, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
Darvin Ham says Taurean Prince will start on opening night. Calls the start “circumstantial.” Jarred Vanderbilt remains day to day with his heel but Ham says “in all likelihood” Vando will not be available on Tuesday.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 21, 2023
Prince has played really well with the starters in the preseason so this doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Ham has constantly praised his professionalism and 3-and-D ability, which is what is needed in that starting group. Even Reaves, Russell and Davis have all recognized how well Prince has fit with them.
The real question will come whenever Vanderbilt is able to return as Ham seemed to insinuate that Prince is just starting in his place. Vanderbilt is the best wing defender the Lakers have on the roster, which is also necessary with the starters, although his 3-point shooting and offensive game are inferior to Prince.
Regardless, it is good to see that Ham has options to choose from and will likely continue to evaluate what is best for the team as the season goes on.
Vincent expected to be ready for season opener
Another Lakers player who has been dealing with a minor injury is Gabe Vincent, who missed the last three preseason games with some back tightness.
Ham has maintained that his absence was just precautionary though and that appears to be the case as the expectation is that Vincent will be good to go on Tuesday night against Denver.
With Prince in the starting lineup, the Lakers’ bench unit should consist of Vincent, Max Christie and Hachimura as well as big men Christian Wood and Jaxson Hayes.
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