MIAMI – In Wednesday’s season opener against Miami, it was Alex Caruso who earned the starting nod for Zach LaVine.
The plan for Friday against the Wizards? A wait-and see.
For now, Ayo Dosunmu earned the starting point guard spot for the injured Lonzo Ball (left knee). Will the second-year player hold up through the month or even over the next week? A wait-and-see.
The plan for Thursday was to have LaVine (left knee management) work out when the team practices in the nation’s capital, but how much he’ll be able to do?
That’s right, a wait-and-see.
So much for the organization’s offseason plan of “continuity.”
Unfortunately for coach Billy Donovan, this will all fall on his watch, and will be his duty to try and clean-up.
“Some of the stuff is unfortunate, and anytime you’ve got players out – not just our team, any team – it definitely hurts any team,” Donovan said of his mentality. “But we’re still going to have to play games with some of these things going on. The continuity is not ideal, but from a coaching perspective, we’ve got to play to an identity.”
That’s how Donovan feels like he has to approach life with question marks around Ball and LaVine to start the season.
Don’t get overly concerned with the players as much as establishing a team identity.
Where it gets tricky, however, is identities are built through practices, and with some real uncertainty of how much LaVine can even practice from day to day or when Ball will come back, how much can actually get done in these practices.
Donovan has installed the foundation pieces of his offense and defense, but admittedly had a lot to “build-out” in both aspects.
“It’s just the way it is,” Donovan said of the situation. “I feel like it’s my responsibility and my job that whoever the next person is that has to step in for Zach, we’ve got to play to a certain style on both ends of the floor. Listen, you’re talking about a guy [in LaVine] that gets 27 points per game, shoots over 40% from three, and is an NBA All-Star. I can’t ask any of those guys to replace him, but regardless of if he’s there or not, can we play how we know we need to play to put ourselves in the best position to play with the best teams?”
Veteran DeMar DeRozan made sure that his teammates weren’t sulking in the wake of the injury management news about LaVine.
While DeRozan admitted that it would be easy for his teammates to fall into that trap of woes us, especially after all the injuries last season, he wouldn’t allow it.
“You can’t hold your head down at all,” DeRozan said. “Nothing ever goes as ideal as you want it to go. That’s just part of life. We’re a team and everyone has to have the approach that nobody is going to feel sorry for us, and we’re not looking for anyone to feel sorry for us.”
Reserve guard Coby White saw the deadline on an extension from his rookie contract come and go on Monday, making him a restricted free agent at the end of the season. It was a scenario that White expected to play out that way.
“I wasn’t really focused on that,” White said. “Just play this year out. I put in a lot of work this summer, so let my work show, and take it from there.”