If the Los Angeles Lakers' 16-18 record, their five straight losses, Anthony Davis' significant injury and issues with COVID-19 weren't enough to convince you this season is not going according to plan, let the team's new lineup Tuesday provide a little more evidence.
It centers around four interesting words: "starting center LeBron James."
That would be the 36-year-old (soon to be 37-year-old), "won a championship two years ago playing at point guard" LeBron James, who took the floor against the Houston Rockets with three guards and wing Stanley Johnson, signed on a 10-day contract.
Laker REALLY mixing it up against Houston. New starting lineup:
— Bill Oram (@billoram) December 29, 2021
You might expect such a development to have been preceded by a glut of injuries among Lakers big men, but ... that hasn't really happened. Davis remains out with an MCL sprain, but Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan were both eligible to play Tuesday. And the Lakers decided to instead play their former MVP in the middle.
Obviously, the Lakers played differently with James at the 5 instead of Jordan and Howard. The offense still flowed through James, though his defensive responsibilities shifted more paint heavy.
As the Lakers' Mike Trudell noted, this was the 19th different starting lineup the Lakers had used in 35 games this season. Only two players — Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony — have missed fewer than five games this season. That's left the team with still plenty to figure out midway through the season, hence experiments like Tuesday's.
Lakers ride C LeBron James to win
James starting in the middle worked out for at least one game, as the Lakers beat the Rockets 132-123 to halt their losing streak.
The tallest player to see the floor for the Lakers, James posted a triple-double with 32 points (11-of-19 shooting), 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Howard and Jordan did not see a minute on the floor, but the Lakers still finished even in points in the paint with the Rockets, 56-56.
Of course, beating the 10-25 Rockets is hardly a proof of concept. But at least it isn't another loss.