Ham removed guard D’Angelo Russell from the team’s starting lineup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, opting to start LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jarred Vanderbilt, Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish.
Ham kept that lineup for the team’s game against the Boston Celtics on Christmas as well.
“Yes, there have been some eyebrows raised over the past 72 hours or so when the Lakers made the starting lineup change,” Buha said. “I started hearing about it Friday afternoon in talking with some people. At first, I just didn’t believe it. I was like, ‘There’s no way.’ Maybe they’re putting Vando (Vanderbilt) in because ever since training camp, Darvin has basically said Vando was gonna win the starting spot over Taurean Prince. He was gonna be the fifth starter again. And that was the way L.A. was planning on going into the season, but he suffers that heel injury. He misses a bunch of time.”
Adding Vanderbilt to the starting lineup gives the Lakers some more size and defensive ability, but the team doesn’t have a true point guard in the lineup.
James, who is one of the best passers in NBA history, is the team’s best initiator with Davis, Prince, Reddish and Vanderbilt on the floor.
Ham’s decision does give Russell more chances to play with the ball in his hands, and he scored 15 points in just 17:28 of playing time against Oklahoma City. Against Boston, Russell finished with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting in 17:49 of playing time.
While Buha mentioned that Vanderbilt was likely to start had he not gotten hurt, it’s interesting that Ham decided to keep both Prince and Reddish in the starting lineup as well.
This isn’t the first time that the Lakers head coach altered his rotation this season. Ham previously took Austin Reaves out of the starting lineup. Reaves has responded well to the move, averaging 15.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game as a reserve.
The Lakers won the NBA’s In-Season Tournament, but they have not played as well as they would have liked to so far this season.
Los Angeles sits in the No. 9 spot in the Western Conference with a 16-15 record through its first 31 games.
While Ham is experimenting with a new lineup to see if he can improve the team’s play, it’ll be interesting to see how long he sticks with a group that is playing without a true point guard.