Coach Luke Walton decided to make a change in his starting lineup to prioritize the development of his young players in the final months of the 2016-17 NBA season. Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng received demotions as Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black earned the starting role.
After a surprising 10-10 start, the Lakers turned out as one of the worst teams in the league once again. Their current situation is somewhat expected after losing Kobe Bryant last season. They mostly consist of young players who need time to develop into legitimate superstars.
The acquisition of Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng didn’t help at all as they failed to make a huge impact since arriving in Los Angeles. Mozgov and Deng signed lucrative contracts last summer to serve as the Lakers starter while waiting for the development of their young core. However, they continue to be inconsistent, forcing coach Luke Walton to make a change.
Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng removed from Lakers starting lineup
In their game against the New York Knicks, Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black started in place of Mozgov and Deng. Walton’s decision turned out to be beneficial as the Lakers beat the Knicks, 121-107. Ingram and Black combined for 23 points, and 17 rebounds and only committed one turnover.
According Bill Oram of O.C. Register, Walton first informed Executive Vice President Jim Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak about his plan to change his starters. The 36-year-old rookie coach revealed that Buss and Kupchak were supportive about his decision.
“We want to try some different lineups together, obviously,” Walton said. “We want to continue to increase the role and the responsibility of some of these younger players as part of their development. Even though we’re happy with the way the team’s playing right now, we haven’t been winning games. So it’s as good of a chance now to start some new lineups, try some new lineups together and see how it looks.”
Despite coming off the bench, Luol Deng still played 23 minutes but failed to perform well on the offensive end. Unfortunately for Timofey Mozgov, he found himself out of the rotation as Ivica Zubac earned the role as the primary backup center. Mozgov looked frustrated after the game and revealed his intention to ask Walton about his demotion.
“A lot. I mean It’s not that easy. Maybe I gotta find some answers by myself. So I need time,” Mozgov told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times.
The Lakers plan to use the remaining months of the season to develop their young core. With Mozgov and Deng turning out as disappointments, their contracts could be a huge problem for the Lakers in the future. If they could find a team whose willing to accept Deng and Mozgov, the Lakers should quickly make a decision before Feb. 23 deadline.
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