The Lakers’ record wasn’t the issue.
The way they were playing, however, drove Phil Jackson to make a change.
“We’ve had maybe five or six games where we’ve felt like there was something not clicking there,” the Lakers’ coach said.
Enter Luke Walton, exit Vladimir Radmanovic.
Walton started Wednesday’s game against Phoenix, ending a string of 20 starts by Radmanovic.
Radmanovic, averaging 7.9 points, had recently rediscovered his three-point touch, though Jackson wanted to make a switch in the wake of a mediocre 3-2 string by the Lakers.
Walton was averaging 1.3 points and 4.8 minutes a game before Wednesday. He was the only Laker on the active list who didn’t play Tuesday against Sacramento, but he had eight points and six assists against Phoenix.
Noted for his passing, Walton hit Pau Gasol with a length-of-the-court pass that turned into a three-point play with 7:56 left in the first quarter.
Then Kobe Bryant sent a long pass to Walton for a layup a few minutes later.
Not only didn’t Radmanovic start, he didn’t play.
“I’m not really happy with it, but obviously that’s coach’s decision,” he said of the demotion. “I’m happy for Luke. I’m friends with Luke, so as much as it’s hard for me, on the other hand, I’m really happy he’s going to get a chance to play and hopefully he’ll play better than I did.”
Radmanovic had three turnovers against Sacramento and had not been playing great defense.
“I didn’t get any heads-up or explanation, so I can’t really tell you anything regarding the lineup change,” he said. “But I’ll be ready. I’m on call.”
Walton had fallen out of Jackson’s rotation and was averaging career-low statistics across the board.
Just two seasons ago, he started 60 games and averaged 11.4 points, five rebounds and 4.3 assists a game, numbers that earned him a six-year, $30-million free-agent contract in July 2007.
One of the bigger questions in training camp was how well Andrew Bynum and Gasol would mesh on offense.
It’s now the least of the Lakers’ worries.
There have been blown leads and spotty defensive play, but Bynum and Gasol have worked well on offense.
“We’re very pleased with that,” Jackson said. “Both of them are exceptionally good with their back to the basket. Pau’s capable of shooting from 17 feet, and that helps a lot. His passing’s there too.”
Gasol has been one of the steadiest Lakers on offense, averaging 18 points and shooting 57.1% from the field.
Bynum has run into foul trouble in some games, though he is averaging 13.3 points and shooting 56%, a number that has improved greatly since a woefully inaccurate start.
Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza wore bright yellow headbands against Sacramento, but they had already canned the idea for Wednesday’s game.
Odom said the concept was something he and Trevor “wanted to roll out with the other day.”
But he said they wouldn’t wear them again after the Lakers’ 113-101 loss to Sacramento.
“No way,” Odom said.
Jackson’s best three-loss start with the Lakers came in 2001-02, when the team started out 19-3. The best three-loss start in franchise history, however, was in 1971-72, when the Lakers started out 6-3 but then won an NBA-record 33 consecutive games before their fourth loss. . . . Ariza and Clippers guard Baron Davis own part of the Conga Room club, which opened Wednesday at L.A. Live, across the street from Staples Center.