After a big win against the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Lakers improved to 3-0 since switching from an 11- to nine-man rotation.
The new-look bench unit has provided immense energy and hustle for the Lakers, including a breakout performance from Talen Horton-Tucker. But because of the change, Wesley Matthews and Markieff Morris have found themselves on the outside looking in.
Matthews was brought in on a one-year deal to essentially be a replacement for Danny Green, who was traded for Dennis Schroder. Morris was re-signed to a minimum contract after being a key rotational piece in the Lakers’ championship run last season.
However, neither have played particularly well in the 2020-21 season, which could have been the impetus for the decision to bench them. Despite this, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel still wants them to be in the rotation given the skillsets and style of play they bring to the team.
“When you have guys like ‘Kieff and Wes that are really good players, they fit our culture, they represent who we want to be on the floor with the toughness, the selflessness, the play hard mindsets and just a lot of veteran savvy, you just don’t want those guys going too long where they’re getting DNPs or not staying involved,” Vogel said.
“We’ll continue to look on it at a game-to-game basis so that we’re keeping all of our weapons sharp. But certainly we’re seeing some good things with the rotation we’re using right now, so we’ll keep evaluating game to game.”
Matthews and Morris likely knew when they signed their contracts that there was a chance they would go games without ever seeing the floor simply due to the depth the Lakers have. However, with the Lakers playing as well as they are since trimming down to a nine-man rotation, it’s possible they could be on the bench for a while.
Until the Lakers lose a game or show any form of weakness with their new lineups, Vogel likely will have no motivation to change things up. For now, Matthews and Morris might simply be replacements for when players sit games out or potentially get hurt.
Vogel still evaluating new-look lineups
One of the biggest positives that has come from Vogel shrinking the rotation has been the discovery of a great lineup including LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso, and Horton-Tucker. Vogel said he didn’t want to come to any hasty conclusions, but liked what he saw from them.
“I think we still have a lot of basketball to be played,” he said. “I think it’s only two games that we’ve looked at that, but it’s part of roster exploration. We hit a speed bump on our last trip where we felt like we could get a little bit of a burst by shortening the rotation.
“It wasn’t by design to just throw those particular five guys together, but sort of moving up two guys that have been playing well in Talen and Alex.”
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