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Lakers tighten rotation again, but keep Wesley Matthews in

Lakers tighten rotation again, but keep Wesley Matthews in

LOS ANGELES — The return of Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso is a good thing for Coach Frank Vogel, a step closer to the Lakers becoming whole.

But as it has all season, a full roster means gut-wrenching decisions with the lineup, ones that Vogel has acknowledged have gotten to him this year on a team that is possibly the deepest he’s ever coached.

After benching veterans Markieff Morris and Wesley Matthews in late January, the Lakers were able to play both in the void created by injuries that kept both Caruso and Davis sidelined for two games. With both back Friday night, the Lakers had choices to make again.

“These are impossible decisions,” Vogel said. “Both of those guys deserve to be in the rotation.”

But only one is so far: The Lakers elected to play Matthews in a 10-man rotation, based in part on his 26 points in the team’s last two overtime wins, including 3-pointers in each extra period. Morris was benched again.

Morris, 31, has been frank about his reservations with having to sit out games, saying he had gone back and forth with Vogel about it. And for his part, Vogel seems to understand where Morris – who was a critical piece of successful small-ball lineups during the title run last season – is coming from.

“He’s a true pro but obviously disappointed, as he should be,” he said. “I admire the hell out of the guy. There’s no one that exemplifies the way I want to play as much as Markieff Morris, in terms of the toughness and physicality and the attitude that comes along with that.”

Both Davis and Caruso went through on-court testing before the game to make sure they were ready to play. Vogel said both had responded well physically to Thursday’s practice, reporting that they felt well on Friday morning.


Amid a career-low in scoring and a number of other key categories, Marc Gasol reflects on a saying he first heard from Hubie Brown: “The hardest thing to do is your job.”

Gasol is one of the lowest-scoring starters in the NBA, but as far as Vogel is concerned, so far the veteran center has done what the Lakers brought him in to do.

“We’ve got a lot of firepower offensively,” Vogel said. “Sometimes the right complement to guys like that are someone who’s selfless, who has a great IQ, a feel for passing the basketball, and is willing to sacrifice his own touches and shots for the rhythm of the offense and the betterment of the team.”

There are areas where the Lakers would like to see more: Vogel said he expected Gasol’s 3-point percentage, just 31.1 percent entering Friday’s game, would rise closer to his 35.3 career percentage. Gasol’s assists (1.9 apg) are also as low as they’ve been since his rookie season.

There are other non-box score ways Gasol hopes to contribute, through his defense and setting screens. Until some other factors gel for him, the 36-year-old said he’ll continue to focus on those aspects.

“You have to stay in rhythm and you accomplish that by staying ready mentally, and also by moving as much as possible offensively, being involved,” he said. “Screening, cutting, crashing the boards, whatever you can do to try to make a play for yourself or for somebody else. I’m an unselfish guy by nature, that’s how they taught me. When I’m not in rhythm, I’m trying to get somebody else a great look.”

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