Coming off their embarrassing 113-103 loss to the Orlando Magic, the Lakers enter Houston tonight carrying an 8-9 record. Along with the recent news of Antawn Jamison starting at power forward tonight because of Pau Gasol’s knee tendinitis, coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to make another change to the starting lineup.
According to ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin, point guard Chris Duhon will also be inserted into the starting lineup tonight:
Darius Morris, who has been the starting point guard for the Lakers since both Steve Nash and Steve Blake went down with injuries, has struggled of late in the starting role. Over the past five games, Morris has averaged a paltry 4.4 points per game on 31% shooting in just over 28 minutes per game. D’Antoni has now decided to put Morris back on the bench in favor of Duhon. Duhon, in that same amount of games, has averaged 4.0 points per game on 36.8% shooting in about 25 minutes per game.
The statistic that stands out for both players is three-point shooting percentage. With Dwight Howard commanding the paint and attracting double teams offensively, a more consistent three-point shooting point guard could prove to be beneficial. When Howard catches the ball inside, his presence shrinks the floor, thus giving the Lakers’ perimeter shooters open looks. Morris, over the past five games, is shooting just 25% compared to Duhon’s more consistent 38.5% from long-range.
Duhon’s shooting ability is just one of the reasons D’Antoni has decided to start him over Morris. D’Antoni is also more familiar with Duhon’s game and trusts him running the show because of their short stint together in New York. While a member of the New York Knicks in D’Antoni’s first year as coach, Duhon posted career numbers of 11.1 points per game on 42.1% shooting (39.1% from three) and 7.2 assists per game running D’Antoni’s system. Since that time, Duhon has yet to even come close to those numbers again.
Because of D’Antoni’s familiarity with Duhon, Duhon’s knowledge of D’Antoni’s system and his superior three-point shooting ability, it seems like D’Antoni is moving towards making Duhon the permanent starter at point guard until Nash returns. As of right now, Morris will assume the role of backup point guard and serve as a change-of-pace spark off the bench because of his superior athletic ability.
Once both Gasol and Nash return, however, the Lakers will potentially have a young, versatile bench unit with Morris, Duhon, Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks, all while being anchored by the veteran in Jamison.
Over the next few games, until Nash eventually returns to the Lakers, keep an eye on the position battle at point guard. The performances of Duhon and Morris going forward will most likely determine which player will retain the backup point guard role when Nash returns to the starting lineup.
Lakers vs. Rockets tips tonight at 5:00PM PST on TWC SportsNet.