Training camp is a time coaches can — and should — experiment. Try different player combinations, wild lineups, see what works and what doesn’t, and bottom line find things out now so it doesn’t cost games later to learn those lessons.
Coach Luke Walton looks at his Lakers rotations and thinks “JaVale McGee will start at center, play 20 minutes a night (max), and then… what?” Ivica Zubac is a questionable fit. Moritz Wagner can stretch the floor, but he is a rookie missing all of training camp with a bruised left knee, Walton doesn’t want to just throw him into the fire.
“It’s going well, you know, picking it up,” Kuzma said after Lakers practice on Friday. “I have never really played the five before. And I think it will be good for us, having a small-ball unit, getting out and running and gunning.”
LeBron James isn’t thinking of it as small ball, he sees this more as the Lakers working towards the positionless NBA.
Kuzma as a backup five makes some sense, especially with Lonzo Ball coming off the bench. Ball’s passing picks up the pace and Kuzma is a fantastic finisher. Throw in guys like Josh Hart, Michael Beasley, the wild card that is Lance Stephenson, and Los Angeles has a deep and potentially dangerous bench.
Now is the time for Walton to play around with that, because once the season starts there is no mercy in the West — the Lakers first three games are Portland, Houston, San Antonio, all teams that will be in the playoff mix in the West.