Lakers Notes: Vanderbilt, Hachimura, Wood, Prince, Reddish, Offense

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has tinkered with the team’s starting lineup over the course of the season, but no matter what he tried, he was having difficulty finding one that stuck. According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, Ham planned to start Jarred Vanderbilt as the fifth starter alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves in early February, but injuries to James and Davis sidetracked that plan.

Then, shortly after, Vanderbilt suffered a foot injury and hasn’t played since Feb. 1. A player with a unique skillset who helped propel last year’s late-season run, Vanderbilt’s absence was and is a big blow to the Lakers. According to Buha, there is internal optimism that Vanderbilt will return before the regular season ends next month.

Someone needed to step up in Vanderbilt’s absence and, so far, the Lakers have seen success with Rui Hachimura taking over the fifth starter spot from Vanderbilt and Taurean Prince, the latter of whom has been a starter for most of the year. The Lakers moved to 12-5 with Hachimura in the starting five next to James, Davis, Russell and Reaves after beating the Sixers on Friday.

I’ve been telling them, like, this is who we are,” Hachimura said. “We’ve been trying a lot of different things, some lineups and all this stuff, but this is the lineup we had in the playoffs and that’s how we won, so it’s simple. … It’s just that we know, we’re just really comfortable playing each other.

Buha further explores why it took so long for the Lakers to get back to lineups featuring Hachimura, which had success last postseason. As Buha explains, Vanderbilt’s preseason injury caused the team to pick between Hachimura and Prince for early-season starter, and Prince won out due to his professionalism and consistency. Prince’s ties to Ham also helped keep him in the lineup for as long as he was.

But with the team floundering and lineups featuring Prince next to the stars continuing to be outscored, the team made the move to Hachimura. So far, the new starting group is outscoring opponents by 42 points and has a plus-8.0 net differential.

We have more from the Lakers:

  • In the same article, Buha writes that while Christian Wood is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with his knee injury, there’s a chance he can make a return for the Play-In Tournament or the playoffs, if the Lakers make it. Wood is averaging 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds this season.
  • Prince missed Friday’s game against the Lakers due to personal reasons but he’s expected to be back in the lineup on Sunday against the Pacers, according to Buha (Twitter links). Prince is averaging 9.0 points and shooting 38.7% from beyond the arc in 66 appearances (49 starts) this season.
  • After he’s been in and out of the lineup due to injury over the past couple months, the Lakers are optimistic that Cam Reddish will be available and able to help the team during the final stretch of the season, The Orange County Register’s Khobi Price writes. Reddish has missed 19 of the last 24 games due to a sprained right ankle after originally suffering the injury on Jan. 23. Ham expressed confidence he’ll be able to help sooner than later. “He should be able to find his rhythm pretty quickly,” Ham said of Reddish. “Obviously, there’s gonna be a little bit of rust and it’s always like that when you’ve been out of the lineup. But for the most part, the things he needs to do to help us win, he should be able to fall right back in the pocket pretty smoothly.
  • The Lakers are running more sets and organized offense, leading to the second-best offensive rating in the league over the past two months, Price observes in a separate article. L.A. is continuing to put forth solid halfcourt offensive displays and are thriving in games with controlled offense. “Getting off to good starts, when the offense gets stagnant, we can run a few sets to get the ball popping again,” Russell said. “It’s vital for us. We’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of talent, can easily get in ‘Hero Mode’ and it can hurt us as a team. So just keeping that ball popping. Having everybody trust the pass. It’ll be contagious, making us hard to guard.
View Comments (7)