Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni made a shock announcement at Sunday morning’s shootaround: Xavier Henry will start; Nicky young will sit. With the Lakers playing the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night, the timing did not leave much of an opportunity for Henry to get familiar with the starting unit. Three games into the season, however, the starting unit has not offered enough of a punch to justify keeping it intact.
“He’s played as well, if not better, than anybody,” D’Antoni said about Henry. “There’s no reason not to go ahead and not do this, and lengthen his time on the court a little bit.”
Henry, the man with nine stitches in his head, said the coach brought him to the side and let him know about the change during the morning shootaround.
“You play really well, your minutes go from a certain amount to a little bit more,” the coach said.
Henry said he would not change anything about his routine or his approach, and he couldn’t remember the last time he had started a game offhand. Excluding Pau Gasol, the 22-year-old has been the Lakers’ top performer through three games.
As much as the move was geared to showcase Henry and provide him extra minutes, D’Antoni hinted that he was hopeful that the switch would kick start Young’s season. Young, the man Henry replaces in the starting lineup, has under-performed and failed to match his preseason production.
“I haven’t,” Henry responded when asked if he had spent much time with the starting unit.
Sunday night against Atlanta, he will be learning on the job. It may be a gamble, but the switch does make sense based on the small sample size. The obvious reply would be that the Lakers are only three games into the season, and the Lakers’ stellar second unit may be disrupted by the change.
Plenty of questions will be answered on Sunday evening when the Lakers host the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center. Tip-off is at 6:30pm PST.