Xavier Henry, an afterthought of an offseason signing who has burst onto the Lakers scene, was told by coach Mike D’Antoni on Sunday morning that he’d be joining the starting line up.
“He’s played as well if not better than anybody,” said D’Antoni. “There’s no reason not to go ahead and do this.”
In three games, Henry is averaging 13.0 points on 40 percent field goals and 42.9 percent three-pointers, going off for 22 points against the Clippers in the lone win of the season. His numbers looked better before he went 0 for 6 against San Antonio on Friday, seemingly affected by a hard fall that produced nine stitches on his forehead. Regardless, he’s trying to keep his cool heading into his first start.
“I’m not too amped up,” said Henry. “I’m going to do the same things, attack it the same way.”
Henry’s ascension to the starting line up means somebody has to head to the bench, and that will be Nick Young. It’s D’Antoni’s hope that Young can play better with a more-energized second unit, and that it allows him a bit more room for his offensive game. Young has struggled in his first three games in purple and gold, hitting only 6 of 22 field goals (27.3 percent) with four rebounds and one total assist.
With Kobe Bryant still out, Henry is easily L.A.’s best at getting to the basket, something D’Antoni thinks could energize the starters. Tip off for Henry’s first chance to show his stuff as a starter: 6:30 p.m. at Staples Center against the Atlanta Hawks.