To argue that Taurean Prince did not have a smashing debut with the Lakers would be an understatement. In fact, his first preseason game two weeks ago was a bust; he fouled out and shot only one of five — including zero of three from beyond the arc — in 13 minutes on the floor as a substitute. To his credit, though, he subsequently showed flashes of the skill set that made him the ideal recipient of the $4.5 million biannual exception. With Jarred Vanderbilt sidelined since the opener due to a bruised heel, he did well enough to be named by head coach Darvin Ham as the fifth starter (alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, and D’Angelo Russell) when the regular season kicks off later this week.
For Prince, the role will be a veritable return to his early days with the Hawks and Nets; he had been burning rubber from the bench in the last three years. Whether he will remain in the First Five when Vanderbilt convalesces is anybody’s guess at this point. It likewise bears noting that Rui Hachimura did well in the same spot for the better part of the 2023 Playoffs. In other words, Ham will have the luxury of choice, and may well opt for a revolving door depending on the makeup of the opposition at any given time.
Indeed, the Lakers now have the luxury of roster depth — and not the type akin to a mere collection of talents. Credit to general manager Rob Pelinka for actually constructing a lineup that makes sense, balanced and made up of complementary pieces. If there is any question, it’s that chemistry can be hard to develop on the fly. And, yes, the fact that their two best players are injury-prone does give even the most optimistic watchers some pause. Then again, it’s precisely the reason Prince and such notables as Gabe Vincent, Jaxson Hayes, Christian Wood, and Cam Reddish were brought in — to hold the fort during the times the top guns are absent.
All told, the Lakers have ample cause to believe another deep postseason run is in the cards. The Western Conference is admittedly stacked; the Nuggets, Suns, Warriors, Grizzlies, and Clippers are projected to crowd the top. All the same, success in the National Basketball Association is attributable to a confluence of factors that could very grace their quest for the hardware. If there’s anything their run to the championship in the turn of the decades underscored, it’s that fortune favors the brave. And if Prince has his way, he’ll be injecting his fair share of pluck along the way.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.