When Steve Nash returns to L.A.'s starting line up in the next few games, here's what Mike D'Antoni's primary rotation could look like:
Starters: Nash, Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Subs: Chris Duhon, Darius Morris, Metta World Peace
That leaves Jordan Hill, Antawn Jamison and Devin Ebanks among those on the outside looking in, which D'Antoni said he regrets particularly in Hill's case, as he was pleased with Hill's effort in previous games.
With that said, he wants to open up the floor.
"We have to be able to change our team," said D'Antoni. "For us to have a different team, a different look, Metta has to play the four. If he starts at the three, then once I get him to the four, it's too many minutes for him. I think Metta will be very productive as a four, and our team will be very productive.
"You have Dwight, you have a 7-footer in there, so we can go small. I think it puts Jodie Meeks out there, it (gives) Kobe more area to operate. Once we get Nash back, we'll have pick and rolls... there's a lot of area (there)."
Typically, World Peace will check in around the six-minute mark of the first quarter for Gasol, likely to return two or three minutes later to replace Howard. That allows MWP to play power forward, which D'Antoni says is necessary "for us to have a different team, a different look," and Gasol to play center, which is certainly his best position.
D'Antoni started Devin Ebanks - who could still be in line for a few minutes at backup small forward - on Tuesday against Charlotte, but replaced him with Meeks to start the second half. Meeks has scored in double figures in 5 of 6 games, and has not only been spreading the floor with his three-point shooting (39.3 percent) but competing with intensity on defense.
"(Meeks) has a little pop to his game, both offensively and defensively," said D'Antoni. "He spreads the floor, always a 3-point shot waiting to happen. I think he's playing extremely well; he's a good player."
In addition to Meeks, Morris sparked the Lakers defensively against Charlotte, helping erase an 18-point deficit in the third quarter. D'Antoni said if he continues to play defense like that, he'll force his coach to put him on the floor, even if it's at backup shooting guard with Bryant playing more small forward and Meeks starting at the two.
Gasol and Howard will essentially occupy all 48 minutes at the center position, which in D'Antoni's system best suits Hill, so he may not play much unless one of the two in front of him get into foul trouble. Jamison had a run of five games in double figures in six contests from Nov. 23 to Dec. 5, but was a DNP-CD with Gasol's return, having failed to score in limited minutes in the previous two contests.