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Lakers move D’Angelo Russell to bench, start Jarred Vanderbilt

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Los Angeles Lakers shuffling their starting lineup at the same time they are likely to lose one of their reserve guards for the foreseeable future.

Jarred Vanderbilt replaced D’Angelo Russell in the starting lineup for Saturday night’s 129-120 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The rest of the starters — LeBron JamesAnthony DavisTaurean Prince and Cam Reddish — remained the same.

“We chose to lean into our defensive side of the ball,” Ham, speaking before the game, said of the change. “And when you play great defense, it makes the offense a little bit easier. And so, just wanted to lean into that side of the ball. Start out a little bit bigger.”

Vanderbilt scored two points with six rebounds, one steal and one block in 24 minutes, while Russell had 15 points, one rebound and three assists in 17 minutes.

Russell’s move to the bench comes while minutes are opening in L.A.’s backcourt.

Gabe Vincent, who returned from a seven-week absence because of swelling in his left knee to play 14 minutes against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, is considering an arthroscopic procedure on the knee that would sideline him six to eight weeks, sources told ESPN.

The knee started to swell again after the Chicago game, causing Vincent to miss Thursday’s contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Saturday’s game against the Thunder.

The decision on the procedure is expected to be made as soon as Sunday, sources told ESPN.

“You just have to make sure everything is well and good with him and his health first and foremost,” Ham said of Vincent. “And then you just try to activate Plan B, which is next man up, so to speak. But our No. 1 top priority is to just to make sure we know what’s going on with him and put him in a position where he can get healthy.”

Russell’s move to the bench reunites him in the backcourt with Austin Reaves. The pair started the first eight games.

“Austin and D-Lo, they’ve had some really good synergy together on the floor together,” Ham said. “And so that second wave allows us to play a little faster, is more offensive. I’m looking forward to both, seeing how this starting lineup applies their pressure on the game early and then also see, once we start to make substitutions, the variety in which we get offensively.”

Before Saturday’s win, the Lakers had lost their four previous games. They are 2-5 since winning the in-season tournament in Las Vegas. Davis had labeled the Thunder game a “must win” for the Lakers.

“It’s been a hell of a road, man,” Ham said before the game. “A lot of highs, a lot of lows, a lot of fatigue, a lot of travel. And so just for the spirit of our group, going into a huge Christmas Day game back home, we want to finish off this trip the right way.”

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