The Lakers, as I thought they would, stood pat at the trade deadline. Trading their veterans for any sort of viable return was going to be difficult, trading their young players was going to be a nonstarter, and by wanting to maintain cap space for next season there simply was not going to be a deal to make.
This leaves the Lakers with the same roster they had heading into the all-star break, the same roster that has produced 11 wins and 46 losses. With that, I’m sure there will be some lingering frustrations. My sense, as the trade deadline approached, is that fans were hoping for a chance simply to see a different roster and for Byron Scott’s options to be altered in order to create different lineup and rotation decisions. After all, if Lou Williams or Brandon Bass or Roy Hibbert were to be traded, maybe D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson see more court time together, maybe Tarik Black could be more than just an emergency option at Center.
There’s some merit to this, for sure. I mean, even some of Scott’s comment’s post practice can be read into in ways that don’t inspire confidence change is coming:
But changes will come. Scott has said so himself. They may not come on Friday (Russell is expected to remain a reserve vs. the Spurs), but they will come sooner or later. I joked that for “round number reasons” Byron will likely make a lineup change with 25 games left (or maybe it will be with 20), but even Mitch Kupchak has said he expects the young players to get more minutes and Byron, as early as December, has said he would make such changes as the year wore on. We’re getting to the point where there’s not much time left, so I expect his word to be honored.
So, in a way, I am not worried. No, the roster has not changed, but I think soon enough we will see Russell starting and closing. And now that Nance is healthy — he practiced fully on Thursday — he too will get back into the rotation behind Julius Randle. I hope to say the same about Anthony Brown and that we will get more than just token appearances from Tarik Black. If those latter two find their way back into the mix (likely at the expense of Hibbert and Nick Young), six of the team’s 10 man rotation will be players who are 24 or younger.
There really is no reason for this not to happen now. Some would argue that was the case all year, but I digress. With little else to play for, let the kids get some burn, let the front office evaluate where they are, and the let the chips fall (and, likely, the losses come). Then we can get to the summer and see what really comes next.