A heap of injuries has forced head coach Luke Walton to literally start concocting starting lineups on a game-by-game basis, as the Lakers used their eighth different opening five of the season on Monday.
The unorthodox lineup included rookie wing Brandon Ingram playing point guard and reserve small forward Metta World Peace at shooting guard. Walton isn’t sure what group he will put out there to begin the game on Wednesday in Houston.
Four Lakers — D’Angelo Russell (sore knee), Nick Young (strained calf), Jose Calderon (hamstring strain) and Tarik Black (sprained ankle) — will not travel with the team on its one-game trip, while Larry Nance Jr. (knee contusion) is listed as questionable.
Russell is ready to start on-court activities again, Walton said at Tuesday’s practice, but there is still the issue of addressing the current starting lineup.
Walton said that he has reached the point where he is considering taking either Lou Williams or Jordan Clarkson off the bench — which he has been reluctant to do considering how much they have contributed to the NBA’s highest-scoring second unit.
Still, though the Lakers (10-13) haven’t topped 17 assists in their last four games, Walton understands that injuries — particularly to point guards Russell and Calderon — have put his players in a bind.
“A lot of our shooting is missing right now,” Walton said. “And because of that, the spacing isn’t the same on the floor. It becomes more difficult, but I don’t think we’ve started playing selfishly at all yet.”
Walton said that these injuries will try his players’ willingness to play selflessly, claiming that being shorthanded will test if they “turn into a team that accepts losing and becomes selfish and gets more interested in individual success.”
If Nance is unable to play, the Lakers will be without five players who combine for 47.6 points, 19.0 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.
But Walton was still able to find some humor in the situation in the form of Young’s getup from the night before, quipping, “After that outfit he wore last night, I don’t know if we’re gonna let him sit on the bench anymore.”