After promising changes following a tough loss to the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott followed through on his word.
"Starting lineup has been changed: Ronnie Price will start at the point guard; Kobe (Bryant) at the two; Wesley (Johnson) at the three; Ed Davis at four; Jordan Hill at five," Scott told NBCLA.com on Sunday morning.
Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer were no longer starting, and Price and Davis had usurped their starting roles. Scott pointed to a "defensive mentality" that both Price and Davis possessed--something the coach thought the team needed at this moment.
"I think Ed's energy is contagious. He comes in and he brings a different element. And I think it's the same with Ronnie." Scott's reasoning for making the changes was ground in defense, "They think the defensive end of the floor first, and right now, that's what we need."
When asked about how the player had taken the news, the coach laughed off the question. He pointed to the record, 5-15, and asked rhetorically, "What are they going to say?"
Scott continued, "(I'm) just trying to inject some more energy into our team but also to let them know that if you think your minutes are guaranteed, it's not. It really isn't. To be honest with you, from a coaching standpoint, I got nothing to lose. I really don't. We're 5-15 right now."
Asked what Lin and Boozer needed to do going forward, the coach was clear: "The biggest thing is I need them to defend. Offensively, especially from Jeremy, understanding just what a point guard is...he still has to learn that."
Through 20 games, Lin has had a difficult time consistently creating for teammates and showing signs of building chemistry. The one-sided loss in Boston was just the latest example of Lin failing to run the offense as a point guard. Lin was able to attack the rim in spots and shoot a high percentage, but he only managed two assists with two turnovers on the night. His opposite number, Rajon Rondo, notched 16 assists and one turnover--more than the entire Lakers' team.
Consistent defensive effort, ultimately, was the reason the coach made his changes. Previously, Boozer missed a game due to a shoulder injury, and Davis made his lone start of the season. In that game, the forward was unable to avoid foul trouble and proved to be ineffective as a starter.
"The first thing I want (Davis) to do is play like he plays--play with that aggressive mindset and that physical mindset," Scott said when asked about how Davis would need to adjust as a starter. "But obviously, with doing that, he has to be a little bit smarter now that he's going to start. I want him to be on the floor as much as possible. There's going to be times when he has to just give up a layup or give up a basket to avoid getting his second or third foul early."
Scott also believed that Davis would hear less whistles from the officials once they saw him play more consistently.
Scott said, "The more he's out there, the more the referees will start to see what type of player he is and how he plays, and they'll start to give him more respect."
The Lakers' coach was quick to warn that these were only the first changes. He said the coaching staff would assess progress based on five games at a time, but he would likely be quicker to make changes on the next go-around.
On Sunday night, the new-look Lakers host the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center. Tip-off is 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time.