— It is a relatively innocuous exercise: An hour before tipoff a member of the hometown scoring crew walks into the coach's office, asks for that night's starters.
For the most part, the answer is, "Same as last time."
And that is it. The introduction order can be planned. The stats monitor sorted.
Yet this season, there have been more than a few twists in the NBA's lineup cards. Coaches have been anything but masters of the obvious.
Now, with a two-week sample available, it is as good a time as any to take a look at some of the less-than-business-as-usual decisions.
Lineup twist: Starting Marco Belinelli at shooting guard.
Upon review: Don't kid yourself, when first-year coach Monty Williams announced that Belinelli would be his starting shooting guard, the response was a collective, "Huh?"
But Belinelli not only has provided answers, but helped the Hornets get off to the best start in franchise history. Yes, the same Marco Belinelli who seemingly couldn’t get out of his own way in Toronto.
Instead of going with the tired answers of Peja Stojakovic or Willie Green, or even the somewhat safe approach with Marcus Thornton, Williams found someone to provide surprising defensive grit and a 3-point threat to space the floor.
Lineup twist: Starting Ryan Anderson at power forward.
Upon review: For years, the question with the Magic has been where Rashard Lewis offers the greatest return on his obscene contract.
To the credit of Stan Van Gundy, the Magic coach has displayed a willingness to mess with a good thing, with Anderson inserted into the starting lineup a week into the season and Lewis shifted to small forward.
In many ways, this is a lineup shift that has more to do with the second unit, opening time for Brandon Bass behind Anderson, while limiting the minutes Quentin Richardson and Mickael Pietrus see at small forward.
This may change again, perhaps even by the time you read this. But give Van Gundy credit for refusing to keep his starting lineup static.
Lineup twist: Not starting No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner.
Upon review: It took seven games for the 76ers to get the former Ohio State scoring star into the starting lineup, and then only when Andre Iguodala was sidelined by a strained right Achilles.
Before that, Doug Collins had utilized Jason Kapono and Andres Nocioni in the first unit ahead of Turner. For a team that only can be about the future, it certainly was a somewhat odd approach, especially with Jrue Holiday being utilized as the starting point guard.
Kapono and Nocioni aren't taking the 76ers anywhere down the road. Turner can, and has to. This not a raw rookie; Turner arrived with three seasons of college experience on his resume. He acquitted himself with 14 points and 10 rebounds in his first start, one that came about six games too late, one that produced only the 76ers' second victory of the season.
Lineup twist: Not starting No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors.
Upon review: In many respects, this is similar to the somewhat confounding approach the 76ers have taken with Evan Turner, who was selected one pick ahead of Favors and waited six games before his first start.
Favors has been a beast for the Nets in the early going, especially on the offensive glass. But instead of accepting the growing pains, Avery Johnson went the first three games with Joe Smith as his starting power forward and then with Troy Murphy. That's one player who best days are behind him and another who has no future with the team.
With Brook Lopez and Favor, the Nets have perhaps the league's premier young power tandem. The problem early on has been that when one checks out, only then does the other check in.
Lineup twist: Starting Shelden Williams at power forward.
Upon review: When the Nuggets signed Shelden Williams in the offseason, there was a collective shrug.
But with Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen sidelined, and with Nene a game-to-game proposition with his own injury concerns, Williams has proven to be a near-double-double revelation in his unexpected starting role.
Eventually Williams will be shuffled back to the bench. But he has helped George Karl buy time through these early weeks of the season, and keep the Nuggets north of .500.
Lineup twist: Starting Reggie Evans at power forward.
Upon review: For all Chris Bosh provided the Raptors in recent years, warrior-like grit was not one of them. In many ways, Evans is the perfect sidekick alongside perimeter-oriented Andrea Bargnani.
The rebounding numbers have been stout at the start of the season, and while Toronto has struggled to find its way, with Evans in place no one is kicking sand in the faces of the Raptors.
Eventually, there will be a realization that more offense is needed at the position. But Evans is setting the tone with his hustle, and at this point, grit and determination are about as much as the Raptors can offer.
Lineup twist: Starting Carlos Arroyo at point guard.
Upon review: This likely will change, likely will have to change, as Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul turnstile through the Heat's defense for obscene assist totals.
Had Mario Chalmers been healthy, instead of missing two offseason months with a high ankle sprain, he likely would have emerged as the opening-night starter at the point.
Now, with Arroyo lacking the range the Heat needs to space the floor, and with his defense marginal at best, it could have Erik Spoelstra rethinking the very concept of point guard.
Don't be surprised if when Mike Miller makes his midseason return from his thumb injury, or even before, that the Heat shifts Dwyane Wade or LeBron James to the point and adds another 3-point threat to the opening unit.
Lineup twist: Starting DeJuan Blair at center.
Upon review: Tim Duncan is not a center. At least that's what the Spurs insist when you look at their starting lineup.
So this time it's DeJuan Blair who gets to impersonate one in the starting lineup, even as Duncan continues to operate in ways that sure make it look like he's a center.
No matter. For now, Blair is the center, with the goal eventually to restore Tiago Splitter to good health and then a steady role in the rotation.
Blair's role is largely nominal, but it allows Gregg Popovich to move through his rotation on his terms. And it keeps Duncan from being introduced as a center.
Lineup twist: Starting Jason Terry at shooting guard.
Upon review: Rick Carlisle's approach in Dallas is fascinating. It's not as much that the goal is to have Terry, the league's 2009 Sixth Man of the Year, in the starting lineup as it is to have Terry hold the position until a healthy Roddy Beaubois is available to open at shooting guard.
So, for now, Terry merely is a space filler, allowing Shawn Marion to continue the adjustment to a bench role that looks like it will become permanent.
Terry essentially is starting because the Mavericks don't want him to start. Seriously.