Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lakers’ Byron Scott may make starting lineup changes


The Lakers may make changes to their starting lineup. But where?

The Lakers currently list Kobe Bryant (rest) and Ronnie Price (right elbow) as doubtful to play in Monday’s game against the Phoenix Suns (24-18) at U.S. Airways Center. But the Lakers (12-29) had the day off Saturday after playing in a set of back-to-back losses on Thursday to Cleveland and Friday in Utah. They will then practice today, which will provide a clearer picture on the team’s health.
The Lakers may make changes to their starting lineup. But where?

Bryant had only missed Friday’s game in Utah as part of Byron Scott’s new quest to sit the Lakers’ 36-year-old star in one game of back-to-back sets. Price’s absence against the Jazz stemmed from a aggravated right elbow injury.

Scott also sounded open toward shuffling the lineup for various reasons. The Lakers approach the halfway mark of the NBA season with the league’s fourth-worst record. He has also pledged he would evaluate his starting group after every 15-20 games.

So how likely will another change come?

“Probably so,” Scott said.

Which players will that involve?

Bryant’s starting position will only become up for grabs whenever he needs rest. Wayne Ellington has taken that spot, averaging 10.6 points on 41 percent shooting in eight starts, seven of which coincided with Bryant’s absence.

Jeremy Lin may start at point guard only if Price’s injury persists. Although Price has only averaged 5.5 points on 36.1 percent shooting, 3.8 assists and 1.2 turnovers, Scott has praised Price’s defense and hustle. Meanwhile, Lin has averaged 10.6 points on 43.5 percent shooting, 4.4 assists and 2.8 turnovers per game. Lin failed to provide a compelling case to move back to the starting lineup, posting six points on 3-of-10 shooting, three assists and three turnovers in Friday’s loss in Utah.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Lin said about starting. “The thought will occur here or there. I’m definitely human. But it just gets back to keeping the script the same every single night with what do I do, what is my approach and how do I play.”

Scott had also taken away Carlos Boozer’s power forward spot in favor of Ed Davis. Does Boozer reclaim that position considering Scott believes he has “had one bad game in the last two or three weeks?” Or will things stay status quo with Davis and Jordan Hill as starters, while Boozer and newly emerged rookie center Tarik Black come off the bench?

The Lakers’ small forward position seems just as firm.

Wesley Johnson has started 38 games at small forward over Nick Young because Scott likes Johnson’s defensive versatility and Young’s scoring to bolster the bench. Even when Johnson missed three games last week because of a strained right hip flexor, Ryan Kelly took that spot. With Young’s recent cold shooting streak, Scott’s likelihood to reward him with a starting role seems unfounded.

Still, considering the Lakers’ personnel and injuries, all of this talk about change might just end up as things staying status quo.