The LA Clippers kicked-off their 2020-21 preseason on Friday night, falling 81-87 to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first of many meetings they'll have this year.
The level of play was reflective of the league's brief offseason, as both teams converted 35.7% of their field goal attempts and combined for 42 turnovers. The Clippers clearly took a more experimental approach to the game and played 18 of the 20 players on their preseason roster. None of LA's starters logged more than 14 minutes of action.
The night's big takeaway came after the game when Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue addressed a question regarding the team's starting rotation.
"I feel like [Serge Ibaka] could be the starter," Lue said. "[Ivica Zubac] has started the last couple years and done a great job... Right now, tonight we went with Serge, and we're going to continue to see how that goes."
Lue doubled down on his comments a few moments later, clarifying that Ibaka will be the team's starting big man for now. Additionally, he said the coaching staff would continue to evaluate the situation throughout the season.
Ibaka's inclusion in the starting lineup is certainly a change, as Zubac has started in all but three of his 98 regular-season contests with the Clippers. That said, it's not exactly a surprise.
Lue prioritized shooting and spacing when he was the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Ibaka better fits his preferred style of play. With Ibaka at center, the Clippers can roll out a starting lineup featuring three-point shooters at each position. And although he's not the rim protector that Zubac is, he still won't give up much on that end of the floor.
As for the team's second unit, the idea seems to be that Zu will help balance out what is otherwise a lineup that leaves a lot to be desired on defense.
Lue ran Reggie Jackson, Lou Williams and Luke Kennard together off the bench, which is a disaster of a defensive trio. But with Zu patrolling the paint, that group should at least offer some resistance at the rim.
Of course, this doesn't mean that we'll never see Zu log another minute with the starters. Assuming Lue continues to stagger his rotation, Zu should still earn plenty of minutes alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, with whom he has the best chemistry. Lue also said that the Clippers could change things up depending on the matchup, so he may still start against more traditional big men.
It'll take some time to know whether Lue's decision to start Ibaka is the right one, but it is refreshing to have a coach so willing to make these types of changes. Doc Rivers was stubborn to a fault when it came to the rotation, and his reliance to stick with Montrezl Harrell in the postseason has been cited as one of the reasons for LA's collapse.
The LA Clippers will continue with their preseason slate on Sunday in a rematch with the Los Angeles Lakers.