Lakers Lineup Changes Look For More Defense

When the Lakers took the court on Sunday against New Orleans, Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin stayed back, finding seats on the bench. Replacing them in the starting lineup were, respectively, Ed Davis and Ronnie Price. While Boozer has been a fine addition to the teams’ offense, he has yet to actually play defense in any game while wearing a Lakers’ uniform. Replacing him with Davis, on a team with several offensive weapons and not an iota of defense, appears to be a long overdue no brainer, but given that such decisions come from the zombie-like apparently brain-dead mind of coach Byron Scott, who any casual observer could conclude spends Lakers’ games in a deep trance, far off from any attachment to reality, it is a major move.

Replacing Lin with Price, however, is a different matter entirely. While Lin has been a major disappoint with his erratic, hot-and-cold play, and also plays only occasional defense, he still is a certified NBA-caliber basketball player. That cannot be said about Price, whose existence in the NBA is a continuing mystery. Some Lakers'-wonk observers say he plays good defense, but I certainly haven't seen it, with his Lakers' career highlight still being the time
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when he threw one of his shoes at an opposing player in a misguided attempt to defend against a drive to the basket. And, among all NBA players, Price is quite likely, the worst offensive player in the league. Shooting a remarkable 31% from the field this season and averaging less than four points per game while playing 21 minutes per game, do not begin to demonstrate his ineptitude. A more telling stat is his scoring .907 points per shot taken, a figure immeasurably lower than that of any other member of the Lakers’ who has taken more than the three shots Julius Randle managed before his season-ending injury. Why Matt Barnes, largely criticized for his early-season shooting slump, scores 1.302 points per shot, almost 50% better than Price.

While theoretically playing Price over Lin could, conceivably, provide an extremely slight measure of improved defense, Price as an offensive liability is not worth the “price”. In Sunday’s 17-point loss, the two performed virtually identically, with Price going one-of-four for three points, Lin one-of-five for three points, and the team having an eight point scoring deficit during Prices’ 26 minutes on the court compared to a nine-point deficit during Lin’s 20 minutes.

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So, why use either of these guys? It's not like the team is fighting for a playoff spot, or even to stay out of the division cellar. So, why not let rookie Jordan Clarkson start and get the bulk of the minutes at point guard? Does the team have anything to lose? Does Scott have anything to lose? If he has a future in the NBA and/or with the Lakers, throw him in the fire and let him play and get experience. He certainly could be no worse than Price, and may
well be more consistent than Lin.

The Lakers play the undermanned Sacramento Kings tonight. As I mentioned a couple of days again, the Kings have been without their key guy, DeMarcus Cousins, who had been hospitalized with what had been said to be a viral infection. He has now been diagnosed to have viral meningitis, and will be out of action for at least several more games. This means that the talent-poor Lakers could actually beat Sacramento tonight. But, don’t expect to see Price, or even Lin, provide any points tonight, though, as they match up against one of the league’s pre-eminent defensive guards, former UCLA Bruin Darren Collison, who is having an outstanding season starting for the Kings after backing up Chris Paul for the Clippers last season. Collison is averaging 15.8 points per game, 6.3 assists, oh, and 1.327 points per shot.

How would the Lakers be fairing if they had Collison at point guard instead of the Lin-Price combo? Just wondering.

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