Xavier Henry will finally be making his long-awaited return to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup on Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. Henry will be returning with the minute distribution in flux as head coach Mike D’Antoni continues to experiment to feed his small-ball obsession. D’Antoni said he will find some minutes for the fourth-year man out of Kansas but at this point, how meaningful will they be?
With all of the players the Lakers are taking a look at, it’s almost as if D’Antoni is taking a preseason approach to the rest of the season. He played 11 guys last game against the Sacramento Kings, so let’s see if he goes with a 12-man rotation against Portland. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
There’s no doubt that Henry deserves to get playing time after enjoying a career year up until his knee injury, but unfortunately for him, his replacements have also played well and may have supplanted him on the pecking order. Right now, he will have to share minutes with recent acquisitions MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore, who have played remarkably well in their short tenure with the team.
In fact, Bazemore and Henry do very similar things on the basketball court, so ultimately it could come down to a battle between them for a future contract with Los Angeles. Henry has admitted to being a little overweight due to the long time spent on the injured list, so expect him to battle conditioning and timing issues right out of the gate. He played in two games for the D-Fenders in a warm-up to get ready for NBA action, and looked superb in both contests, averaging 17 points in 24.5 minutes of play.
There are going to be a lot of confused and unhappy Lakers during the final 23 games as D’Antoni has proven that minutes will be completely random. This, coupled with the horrifying schedule the rest of the way, will certainly produce mostly losses until the clock shows zero on the season for the purple and gold.