On Sunday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers dropped to last place in the Western Conference after losing to the Brooklyn Nets 108-102.
Deserving of their current position in the standings, the Lakers never led for even one moment of the 48-minute contest. Mind you, the Nets were playing on the road on the second night of a back-to-back and resting center Kevin Garnett. The Lakers, however, seemed more interested in evaluating talent than setting up to win the game.
The home team started its 29th different starting lineup in 56 games. This time, Kent Bazemore was the new name in the spotlight. Bazemore became the 16th different starter for the Lakers this season, which is impressive considering an NBA roster only holds 15 spots.
For Bazemore, Sunday night was the first NBA start of his young career. He marked the occasion by scoring a career-high 17 points in 29 minutes. In his Lakers’ debut two nights earlier, the 24-year-old shooting guard had set his previous personal best.
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On Sunday, however, Bazemore started out a bit jittery and committed two of his team-high four turnovers in the first quarter. On the whole, though, Bazemore played well and was the third leading scorer on the team behind Pau Gasol, 22, and Jodie Meeks, 19.
The kid can play defense, attack the rim and handle the ball. The Lakers said that trading Steve Blake was meant to allow for roster evaluation. So far, the talent seemingly being evaluated is the kid the Lakers got back in the trade, and he looks pretty good on both ends of the floor.
With Nick Young also back in the team following a fracture in his knee cap, the Lakers attempted to shift personnel and mixed up lineups. Usually trigger-happy, Young finished with only four shots in nearly 20 minutes on the floor. After the game, Young admitted he was not yet comfortable with the fresh faces and also said he would require a few games to find his rhythm.
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The Lakers’ sixth man also revealed that he was experiencing pain in his knee but had to play through it to help his team.
With Xavier Henry expected back soon and MarShon Brooks fitting the same mold of a shooting guard, the Lakers will suddenly have too many players that can play in the guard and wing roles. After the game, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni hinted that Wesley Johnson would likely need to play more minutes at power forward.
Johnson is officially listed at 6 feet 7 inches, which is usually a height reserved for shooting guards. Even with long arms, few would mistake Johnson for being a power forward, but one of those few is apparently the current coach of the LA Lakers.
With the season nearly 70 percent complete, the Lakers will spend the final 26 games evaluating talent. On Sunday, Bazemore, again, showed he could play on both ends.