DeAndre Jordan is a center. Dwight Howard is a center. Yet with all the options the Lakers have at the position, including All-Star forward Anthony Davis, no one is penciled in as the starting center.
With the Lakers set to open their preseason schedule Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets, there haven’t been any formalized decisions about the Lakers’ plans for the position, only promises from the former All-NBA centers that they’re ready to be good soldiers, ready to do whatever, whenever.
“That’s the blessing of it, having a lot of different lineups that you can use. And I think each game is gonna have a say on what we do,” Jordan said after Saturday’s practice in El Segundo. “We can be rolling with a huge lineup. And, you know, we’ll win with that. And some games may need us to go small. And I think that at this point of my career, of all of our careers, you know, at the end of the day, ultimately, we just want to be able to win and be able to achieve something as a collective.
“And that’s all I’m worried about.”
No one should be looking for any answers from Sunday’s game between two of the NBA’s biggest title favorites. Most of the key players aren’t going to be on the court.
LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony are going to be healthy scratches for the Lakers. The Nets will play without stars players James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin.
Trevor Ariza also is going to miss Sunday’s game after missing another Lakers practice because of a sore right ankle. Davis is set to play the first quarter, coach Frank Vogel said.
“The guys that are going to play, it’s really about our group,” Vogel said. “We have a mindset that while managing minutes responsibly and managing bodies for the marathon, that the five guys on the floor are going to play all out. We’re going to play harder than our opponent and more physical than our opponent and that habit is going to win it for us in the playoffs.”
Physicality is a specialty for Jordan and Howard, the two players having fought in the post for years. And in the first week of practice, nothing has changed.
“You see him?” Jordan joked about Howard.
There’s more than muscles to see. Howard’s an example of a former star who found a way to handle inconsistencies in a diminished role.
“Leave the ego at the door, leave it at home when you wake up,” Howard said of the key to doing it. “There’s no need to have it. We all represent this emblem that’s behind me, this Laker logo. We understand that, and it’s whatever the team needs to win.”
Jordan’s on board, comfortable that his past roles are in the past, and that his present role could mean a start one day and no minutes the next.
“As your career goes on, you know, your body changes, your role changes and I’m fine with that,” Jordan said. “You know, it’s happened to a ton of different players, and they’ve still been able to accept the new role and be successful in their role. And I feel like throughout my career, I’ve been a role guy. And if that changes a little bit, that’s fine. I’m still gonna be a team-first guy.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.