Xavier Henry nabs Nick Young's starting role

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
12:22
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Sometimes you don't know what you got until it's gone. When Xavier Henry exited the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday with a head wound, his team was up by 15 points. When he was able to come back in after receiving nine stitches to the two-inch laceration on his forehead, the Lakers were trailing by two at halftime.

The momentum swing got Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni thinking that the more Henry his Lakers have, the better, so he is putting him in the starting lineup.

"You could definitely read into that," D'Antoni said after shootaround Sunday before the Lakers game against the Atlanta Hawks. "That wouldn’t be wrong."

Henry, who is averaging 13.0 points and 4.3 rebounds through the Lakers' first three games, will take the place of Nick Young at small forward.

"He’s played as well, if not better, than anybody so there is no reason not to go ahead and do this," D'Antoni said.


The coach is hoping that the shift will also benefit Young, who has stalled during the regular season, averaging 8.3 points on just 27.3 percent shooting, after a promising exhibition slate.

"Just to find a better spot for Nick also to maybe get a little bit more production from him," D'Antoni said.

The move is not permanent, necessarily. D'Antoni said he is experimenting with the lineup at this nascent stage of the season.

"I’m just looking to try to get the right combo, who has a little bit of the hot hand right now and we’ll ride him," D'Antoni said. "It might change back. I think early, November is safe to say, different things will happen, things will shake out and we’ll start getting in more of a consistent rotation."

Henry took the promotion in stride.

"I’m not too amped up or doing anything crazy," Henry said. "I’m going to do the exact same thing I’ve been doing."

The Lakers already have a relatively small backcourt with Steve Nash and Steve Blake -- both 6-3 -- and shrunk their starting unit even more with the 6-6 Henry replacing the 6-7 Young, but D'Antoni did not seem concerned.

"(Henry) plays big, plays strong," D'Antoni said. "I think he’s a 3-2, he can play whatever he wants. And then Blake just makes up for it. He’s just a tough sucker. He’s just tough and he’s not going to back down from anybody. I don’t care how tall you are, he’s coming at you."

Henry, who had received most of his minutes at back-up shooting guard thus far, said the move to small forward is not a dramatic change.

"Everybody is really interchangeable on the wings and even the point," Henry said. "You’ll see anybody bring it up, you’ll see both Steves, you’ll see Jordan (Farmar). It doesn’t matter. Jodie (Meeks) will bring it up. Anybody that is out on the perimeter can play everybody’s spot. So, it’s not a big deal."

The bigger deal is the 22-year-old Henry going from a training camp invitee on a fully non-guaranteed deal a little more than six weeks ago to a starter for the Lakers just four games into the season.

"That’s what you hope," D'Antoni said. "When you sign somebody you see something you like and then it was on him, in the sense of he’s made himself into a player with his working on his shot, with his ability to listen and learn and put it in his game. A lot of guys have that potential and for whatever reason, it’s clicking for him right now and he’s maximizing it."

Henry was asked to explain what he did to earn his spot.

"Just be aggressive and bring that mentality of I’m going to get it every day," Henry said. "Energy and always being focused. That’s what I’m going to keep doing."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.1
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.1