As the preseason is nearing its end teams are expected to tighten their player rotations to what they will look like when the regular season begins.
With that in mind, Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni has not begun the process of dwindling down his rotation as evident by him playing 13 players in Tuesday night’s game against the Utah Jazz. With Kobe Bryant still without a timetable for his return, he may be leaning toward a larger rotation until his star player returns.
“We will just keep monitoring things,” D’Antoni said on Tuesday. “There’s a lot of guys that deserve to play. One thing I don’t want to do is meander all over the place. I like to go with some people, and you go with them. They played their way in [to earning a position] and they’ll have to play their way out.”
D’Antoni’s comments may appear that he is giving his players a chance to prove themselves this preseason but the truth is maybe the team will need a larger rotation in order to make up for any potential absence of Bryant or lack of production early on as he works his way back. This is also not to forget an aging core group of players with Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, who are both still working their way back into basketball shape.
A larger rotation will allow players like Nash and Gasol to stay fresh, healthy and ease the load off them with more players playing each night. It is already evident they will need a bigger rotation for the backcourt with Nash dealing with minor injuries through the preseason.
Nash is 39 years old and his body is going to continue to break down, so it would be no surprise to see Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake receive more minutes as Nash will most likely see limited minutes to keep him healthy.
As for Gasol, he is still working his way back from offseason surgery on his knees and a larger rotation would provide leeway for him to get himself back into form on a steady pace rather than being rushed or pressured to do something his body can’t handle at that point.
It will be interesting to see if D’Antoni continues this trend of playing something more similar to a 10-man rotation, which has also drawn the interest of Gasol, who wants to see if a deep bench rotation is sustainable as the Lakers progress to the regular season.
“I actually curious to see,” Gasol said. “I know if that is going to be the case I know that is going to be important. We have a lot of guys who can come in and contribute. We got to keep our intensity and energy up throughout the game. We have a pretty good team with guys that are hungry, who want to come in and do well. Our guys are unselfish, which is also going to be important to be unselfish to find the open guy and trust him that next time he will find you.”
A 10-man rotation may not be realistic to sustain throughout the regular season and possibly when Bryant returns, but one thing is certain — the strong chemistry on this team so far will bring out the best in them regardless of how many players are in the rotation.
Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Bob Garcia IV
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