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Dennis Schroder’s cryptic Instagram move ahead of Game 6 vs. Suns could hint at big changes

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Hours before the Los Angeles Lakers fight to prolong their 2020-21 season in Game 6 against the Phoenix Suns, Dennis Schroder made a possibly noteworthy and definitely eyebrow-raising change to his Instagram page.

The “PG for the Los Angeles Lakers” — at least, for one more night — removed that job description from his IG bio late Thursday morning.

As many Lakers fans immediately speculated on Twitter and/or naturally wondered: could the inauspicious change to Schroder’s Instagram indicate a tactical change to the Los Angeles starting lineup for the biggest game of the season?

Schroder and the Lakers have been at odds for months. The 28-year-old point guard turned down a four-year, $84 million extension, and he has repeatedly expressed a preference to explore free agency and seek a “fair” contract. Various reporting indicates that “fair” to Schroder means “top-tier” guard money in a big market, perhaps in the $25-$30 million per year range.

Since then, Schroder’s value has resembled Doge. He was nearly traded for Kyle Lowry, played excellent ball with LeBron James sidelined, then weirdly hit the health and safety protocols just in time to be out of shape for the playoffs. He hasn’t resembled himself since returning.

Following strong performances in Games 2 and 3, I praised Schroder (and Andre Drummond) for excelling in their playoff roles, and, at least for two games, not letting their impending free agency affect their postseason approach.

Alas.

Since I published those fateful words, Schroder has been abysmal. He followed up a 3-of-13 showing in Game 3 with a scoreless 0-of-9 stinker in the Lakers’ blowout Game 4 loss. Schroder has a combined four assists and posted a minus-25 plus/minus over the past two games. Instead of stepping up with Anthony Davis hobbled, he has concerningly shied away from the moment.

“I gotta be better, for sure,” Schröder said after Game 5. “That’s not even a question. … I think everybody can do better, but it starts with me, for sure. AD was out. It starts with me being aggressive and helping LeBron and all these other guys.”

If the Lakers do make any drastic lineup changes, look for Alex Caruso to move into the starting five. The Lakers frequently use him as their lead guard in crunch time, anyway, and he got the starting nod the last time L.A. faced a Game 6: in the 2020 NBA Finals vs. the Miami Heat.

As for the future? Even bigger changes could be on the horizon for Schroder and the Lakers.