Mike D’Antoni experimenting with Lakers’ rotation
The Lakers won their third-straight game Tuesday night, barely, holding off the Charlotte Bobcats by a single point, 101-100.
Pau Gasol returned to the lineup after an eight-game absence. He played 29 1/2 minutes, and while he only shot three for 10 from the field, his overall box score was relatively solid with 10 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.
Coach Mike D’Antoni used Gasol’s return as an opportunity to experiment with the team’s rotation. Devin Ebanks started the game at small forward but played just under five minutes, missing three of four shots.
That put Metta World Peace on the bench, in two roles. D’Antoni wants World Peace to not only play small forward but also be Gasol’s primary backup at the four.
That meant no minutes for Antawn Jamison, whose play has declined in recent games. Jamison has struggled to be a factor defensively. If he’s also not bringing an offensive punch to help spread the floor, Jamison is going to continue to see his role further diminished.
Jordan Hill, whose strength is rebounding on a team that is already among the best on the boards in the league without him, is relegated to third center.
D’Antoni only played eight players against the Bobcats.
Jodie Meeks earned an expanded role, playing 39 minutes, which pushed Kobe Bryant up to small forward. Darius Morris outplayed Chris Duhon and was the catalyst leading to the team’s comeback from an 18-point deficit. Morris did as well as anyone on the team trying to guard Charlotte’s Kemba Walker.
Upon the return of Steve Nash, Morris would seem to be the natural fit defensively as the second point guard (with Steve Blake out with abdominal surgery). Duhon plays more under control and could get the nod ahead of Morris at times.
D’Antoni is trying to find the right combination of players on a team that has underperformed since the exhibition season. Some of his greatest success as head coach in Phoenix was when he made unorthodox calls such as Shawn Marion at power forward or Boris Diaw at center.
The advantage to having the size and length of Howard and Gasol, along with the “veteran” experience of Bryant, Nash, World Peace and Jamison, also leads to the problem of being older and slower.
The Lakers were flawed before D’Antoni’s arrival. When Nash does return (in the next game or two as hoped), D’Antoni should be given room to find the exact right combination for this roster.
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