Los Angeles Lakers: roster breakdown

Lakers positional battles breakdown

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
7:15
PM PT
Buha By Jovan Buha
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
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When Kobe Bryant makes his long-awaited return in the coming weeks, the Los Angeles Lakers will have the third cog of their starting lineup in place.

With Bryant and Steve Nash as the backcourt incumbents, and Pau Gasol returning to his natural position of center, there are two frontcourt starting positions up for grabs. Throw in the heated competition for backup minutes behind Nash, and there are a few intriguing rotation questions that will need to be answered over the next month or so.

Here are the three positional battles to look out for as the regular season approaches:

[+] EnlargeJordan Farmar
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsJordan Farmar gives coach Mike D'Antoni the type of athleticism at guard that D'Antoni likes to have in his offensive system.
Backup point guard

Candidates: Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar

With Nash on a minutes restriction, both Blake and Farmar figure to prominently factor into coach Mike D'Antoni's supposed 11-man rotation. Still, one is likely to play more than the other.

Farmar's speed and athleticism provide a breath of fresh air on a roster lacking athletic players. His ability to make plays out of the pick-and-roll is a near perfect match with D'Antoni's system, so as long as he's able to replicate the passing acumen he demonstrated in New Jersey (29.0 assist percentage in 2011-12), he'll be the favorite to run the second-unit offense.

Defensively, he's arguably the Lakers' best perimeter defender by default, so he'll have a vital role defending faster, more explosive point guards.

Blake, meanwhile, is more of a traditional floor general who adds a level of steadiness and much-needed 3-point shooting. He thrived in D'Antoni's system last season -- largely because he had his best 3-point shooting season (42.1 percent) since 2008-09 -- but it remains to be seen if he can replicate that production.

Despite his diminishing quickness, he's still a tough, feisty defender.

Advantage: Farmar. Between the two options, Blake is clearly the safer, low-risk choice. But D'Antoni has never been one for convention, and Farmar definitely has the higher ceiling of the two. Since both players can also slide over to shooting guard, the logical outcome might be Farmar as the primary backup, and Blake soaking up off-ball minutes as a spot-up threat.

(Read full post)

How the Lakers match up: San Antonio Spurs

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
11:23
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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For the past several seasons, the San Antonio Spurs have served as basketball's version of Jason Voorhees: They cannot be killed. Since about 2008, fans and media (I've been as guilty as anybody) have cited their long teeth, declining athleticism and rising competition as reasons to declare the end of an era. But the Spurs refused to fade into the sunset, having finished consecutive regular seasons with the West's best record. Yes, the ensuing postseasons were anti-climactic, but either way, the message was made clear: The Spurs are still formidable. The Lakers learned that lesson as well as any team last season, losing twice to San Antonio -- home and away, with and without Kobe Bryant -- by 20+ points.


D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images
With Howard in L.A., the game just changed between the Lakers and Spurs.



But this off-season it appears the scales have been tilted towards Los Angeles. For some perspective on how the new-look Lakers appear from San Antonio, we talked via email with Tim Varner from the True Hoop network's 48 Minutes of Hell blog.

Land O' Lakers: What was the general reaction in the 48 Minutes of Hell-osphere when word broke that Howard was heading to the Lakers?

Timothy Varner: In general, we recognize that it puts the Spurs behind the Thunder and the Lakers in the West. Even worse, the Nuggets improved themselves as well. The Spurs could be fourth in the West.

LOL: But aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln . . .

TV: The worst part about the Howard trade is the Spurs' weaknesses along the front line. The Lakers not only improved themselves, they did so in a way that exploits one of San Antonio's roster deficiencies.

LOL: How much can someone like a (theoretically) improved Tiago Splitter help? And I guess this might actually keep DeJuan Blair in town.

TV: I don't think either player helps, unfortunately. Splitter does not do well against Howard, and Blair will be traded as soon as the Spurs find a good partner. He's an especially awful matchup against Howard and Gasol. Splitter, I should also note, is an expiring contract with good value whom San Antonio may not be able to afford next season. So, somewhat counter-intuitively, Howard could force the Spurs to move Splitter for a roster upgrade at another position.

LOL: On the plus side, nobody will mind if Boris Diaw packs those pounds back on. It might be necessary.

TV: True, but within the Spurs' offense, Diaw is more of a passer for the p-and-r than a post player. So even his re-signing tilts away from bolstering the frontcourt in the sense of matching bodies with bodies.

LOL: That's too bad, because there's always a 50/50 chance Diaw will be wearing a "bro" to begin the season. The weight might as well provide some utility.

TV: I suspect the Spurs understand they can't match Howard and Gasol, so they will look to beat the Lakers in other ways.

LOL: Run them off the court, I assume? Or pick-and-roll them to death? Last season, Manu Ginobli and especially Tony Parker dizzied the Lakers with multiple pick-and-roll sets, often within the same possession.

TV: That's right. Pace and p-and-r are better options for San Antonio than adding more (seemingly useless) bodies to the front court. Look at what the Spurs have done this off-season. They added Nado De Colo, re-signed Patty Mills (high pace point with range) re-signed Danny Green, and concentrated on the development of Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph. Those are all moves with San Antonio's offensive attack in mind, especially as it originates from the back court.

(Read full post)

Goudelock is early roster rotation winner; Kapono, Barnes the early losers

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
3:25
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Up until the point in the game where Kobe Bryant turned the ball over with less than 20 seconds to go rather than waiting for a Chicago foul, the most shocking sight of the Lakers' season opening loss to the Bulls on Sunday was Bryant being subbed out for Andrew Goudelock in the first quarter.

Eight days before the Bulls game, Goudelock was assigned to the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers' D-League affiliate, for a game. Six days before the Bulls game, the Lakers played their exhibition opener against the Los Angeles Clippers and Goudelock received the dreaded DNP - CD.

Yet, there he was on Sunday, playing 13 meaningful minutes in a game that actually counted.

The shocking part about it was that Goudelock, selected No. 46 out of the College of Charleston after a four-year NCAA career when he averaged 18.4 points, seemed like the lowest guard on the depth chart. Darius Morris, selected five picks ahead of Goudelock in the second round, was supposed to be the rookie that would play time this of year at point guard with the 37-year-old Derek Fisher having to deal with a rapid-fire condensed season.

Goudelock can thank the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan for opening up an opportunity for him. While Goudelock sat out the first exhibition game, it was Jordan who blocked Bryant and caused the Lakers star to hurdle to the ground and tear a ligament in his wrist while trying to break his fall. Suddenly, the Lakers were without a backup 2-guard for the second exhibition game while Bryant sat out to rest the wrist and Jason Kapono was plugged into the starting lineup in his place.

Even though Morris did some good things with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists in his preseason debut, he was a point guard with two other point guards in Fisher and Steve Blake ahead of him on the depth chart.

But Goudelock, who was fourth in the country with a 23.4 points-per-game average his senior year, certainly knew how to fill it up.

"When we drafted Goudelock, we drafted him to see if we could develop him into a point guard and when I realized Kobe wasn’t going to play in that second preseason game, I said, ‘You know what? This kid has played well as kind of a 2-guard.’ Because, in order for him to get some reps, we threw him in as the 2-guard during practices," said coach Mike Brown after Goudelock's six-point performance Sunday, when he went 2-for-3 on 3-pointers. "He’s just another ball-handler out on the floor. He’s a very good shooter, he can create his own shot and he’s a four-year college guy that’s not afraid."

(Read full post)

2010-11 roster breakdown: Kobe Bryant

September, 5, 2010
9/05/10
7:59
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster this season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Kobe Bryant

Salary
$24,806,250

Role for the Lakers in 2010-11
Oh, a little of this, a little of that. Couple buckets here and there. Sell a few tickets, kiss a few babies.

C'mon, now, he's Kobe Bryant. At this point, his role on the Lakers isn't exactly tough to define:

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Last season was a tough one for Kobe physically, but he caught fire in the playoffs. This year, will he get less face time with Gary Vitti?


Be Kobe Bryant.

Of course, there's being Kobe, and then there's being Kobe. The former utilizes his ability to define a game without necessarily dominating every statistical category. The latter means plenty of heavy lifting, sometimes dragging teammates along and bailing them out in the end.

Last season, it seemed every other day Kobe buried another game-winning shot. Fans were treated to some incredibly thrilling moments, while the Kobe Time Capsule had scads of video stuffed into it. For The Legend of Kobe Bryant, it was a very bullish year. But exciting and healthy aren't the same, and the extent to which Bryant is asked to repeat last year's heroics -- particularly during the regular season -- could have a major impact on the team's ability to Threepeat.

The math is simple: More heroics = lower odds.

While the end result was sweet, the 2009-10 season was a difficult one for Bryant, as he battled through a laundry list of injuries extensive and painful enough to make him basketball's equivalent of the Operation guy. Pick a body part, and there's a good chance Gary Vitti logged hours -- many, many hours -- nursing it back to form. Finger, back, left knee, ankle, elbow, right knee (partridge, pear tree...). Those are just the injuries we knew about. It was enough to land Bryant, who hadn't missed a game for anything other than suspension for nearly three seasons, on the pine for nine games.

Nine more than anyone expected, given how he'll seemingly play through anything.

(Read full post)

As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Pau Gasol

Salary
$17,823,000

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Pau Gasol has been to the Finals three straight times with the Lakers. How good does he need to be this year to reach a fourth?



We've grown so used to the metronome-worthy consistency it was jarring to see him struggle, relatively speaking, but from the moment he tweaked a hammy in training camp nearly a year ago, Pau Gasol set himself up for much tougher sledding than any he'd seen since arriving in L.A. (And not simply because it doesn't snow here.) Twice he was forced from the lineup with hamstring problems, missing 17 games overall, and because he was injured so early in the process Gasol spent the season chasing, but never reaching, ideal fitness.

It was enough to dent some of Gasol's numbers. His field goal percentage dropped from 56.7 percent in '09-'10 to 53.5 percent last year. The assist rate was down, the turnovers up. The mid-range jumper, so key to Gasol's game, wasn't nearly as accurate in '09-'10 as it was a season earlier.

So why did so many of Gasol's metrics- PER and win shares, for example- rise?

Because he compensated in ways detractors wouldn't have expected: He did all the "tough guy" stuff. Gasol's rebound rate leaped from 14.7 to a career high 17. He blocked shots, going from one a game to 1.7. He scored more frequently through contact, raising his "and-one" percentage from .43 to .57. In four of seven games against the Celtics in the Finals, Gasol hit double digits on the glass, including a monstrous 18 in Game 7. Gasol had more offensive boards that night (nine) than the Celtics (eight), including a critical grab of Kobe Bryant's missed three with under thirty seconds to play.

It was one of many key plays over the final minutes turned in by Gasol, who like Bryant had trouble with his shot through most of the game.

(Read full post)

2010-11 roster breakdown: Andrew Bynum

August, 31, 2010
8/31/10
7:09
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Andrew Bynum

Salary
$13.7 million

Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Can Andrew Bynum be the sort of consistent (meaning healthy, as much as anything) force this season as he was on this dunk? 'Cause it was pretty forceful.



Role in 2010-11
He remains the single element on the Lakers most capable of elevating them from "consecutive championships good" (which ain't half bad) to "damn near bulletproof" (which is even better). A healthy, engaged Bynum means there isn't a team in the league able to effectively match up with L.A.'s three-headed frontcourt monster of Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.

More than anything, even more than Kobe Bryant, it's what makes the Lakers unique.

The abundance of length makes it tough to score down low- one reason L.A. was among the tougher teams to score against inside 10 feet- and provides a steady supply of high percentage points on the other end in the form of putbacks and lobs. The latter are particularly profitable for Bynum, both because he moves well on that end without the ball and his hands are Air Supply soft. It's a luxury the Lakers exploit fully, to the point of near-recklessness. His teammates often toss the ball at the rim haphazardly, understanding Bynum's go-go-Gadget arms will get to nearly everything.

At the other end of his body, Bynum's feet are improving, adding technical know-how better able to generate clean looks and use his size effectively on the block. His range has extended as well, bumping up his percentages on longer shots relative to two season back. If the trend continues, Bynum will truly force the opposition to account for him in those moments he drifts to the high post, opening up more opportunities for Gasol or other teammates on the low block.

Of course, talent has never been the issue.

(Read full post)

2011 roster breakdown: Derek Fisher

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
10:01
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Derek Fisher

Salary

$ 3,700,000


Andrew S. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Fish is an important piece of the championship puzzle, even if less could equal more next season.


Role For The Lakers In 2010-11
More than any Laker, Derek Fisher proves beauty remains in the eye of the beholder... and beholders tend to view things through a lens of extremity.

To some, Fisher is feisty, wise and virtuous -- a local treasure who knocks down big shots with a frequency surpassed by only Kobe Bryant during his second tour with the Lakers.

To others, he’s well past his prime, and sentiment helps fuel his popularity. To them, Fish gets used defensively by every point guard in the league, and clutch as he may be, the old man bricks more than his share of ho-hum shots.

Like most heavily debated topics between people on polar opposite sides, everybody is kinda right, kinda wrong, and the truth lies somewhere in between. This ambiguity will undoubtedly grow as Fisher's value as a player continues to shift from the quantifiable to the intangible.

(Read full post)

2010-11 roster breakdown: Ron Artest

August, 26, 2010
8/26/10
12:03
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Ron Artest

Salary
$6,322,320

Christian Peterson/Getty Images
Getting there wasn't always easy, but last season ended in triumph for Ron Artest. Will he be the good-if-goofy citizen again this year?



Role for the Lakers in 2010-11
When Artest signed with the Lakers before last season, some were concerned the team took a step backwards, trading the youth, potential, and non-craziness of Trevor Ariza for the older, um... eccentric Ron Ron. Would he play his role? Would he be a distraction? Would he snap at some inopportune moment, putting the crazy back in Crazy Pills?

In order, yes, no, and no.

Not that the year was devoid of Artestian color. There were haircuts, a smorgasbord of Tweets, the Great Christmas Night Fall, interviews on national television conducted without pants, and more. It was capped with, quite simply, the greatest press conference ever. (I'm still trying to figure out how to make "Acknowledge me!" my ringtone.) It's not like the guy suddenly became boring- he is and will likely remain a gift to the local media- but anyone waiting for him to rip the team apart was disappointed.

In fact, it was the opposite. Artest became a unifying presence, popular in the locker room and as the reaction to his redemptive moments during the playoffs showed, a guy the rest of the team wanted to see succeed.

On the court, it was more a mixed bag. For a while, Artest was a reasonably solid influence on the Lakers offense. Sure, there were goofy moments, but Artest showed an ability to move the ball and a willingness to get himself near the bucket. He was also the team's most reliable threat from beyond the arc, shooting a sliver under 40 percent before the All-Star break. Then the wheels came off his perimeter game. He started March 4-17 from downtown, and ended it on a 6-24 run. Take away one night in April where he buried three of four, and Artest was 4-23.

The playoffs weren't much better. Never before had I heard a home crowd yell "Noooooooo!!!!!" when a player had a chance to shoot, but the Staples faithful shouted Artest down more than once down the stretch and into the postseason. With good cause.

Then this happened.

(Read full post)

2010-11 Roster Breakdown: Lamar Odom

August, 25, 2010
8/25/10
8:17
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Lamar Odom

Salary
$8.2 million

Jesse D. Garrabrandt/Getty Images
Lamar Odom had his moments last season, good and bad. The ratio between the two this year could help determine whether the Lakers win a third straight title.



Role for the Lakers in 2010-11
It's not that Lamar Odom played poorly last season, because he didn't. Some of his numbers (scoring, field goal percentage) went down, others (rebounding, assists) went up. Looking at the advanced metrics, it's the same story. Some fall and others (particularly his percentages on the glass) rise. The full picture, particularly since it ended in a ring, was hardly some sort of unmitigated disaster. At the same time, relative to the '08-'09 campaign, Odom didn't have the same impact. While people tend to harp too much on inconsistencies in Odom's output- he's hardly the only player whose production fluctuates and finding another guy around the league whose role changes from night to night more than his- his playoffs, and particularly the Finals, were a very mixed bag.

During the regular season, injuries to teammates had Odom sliding in and out of the starting lineup, and meanwhile issues with fellow reserves hurt his performance on a personal level, and of "his" second unit as well. Adding Ron Artest to the mix muddled Odom's role offensively, tending to push him towards the perimeter and emphasize even more his natural tendency towards deference. Still, Odom played the same role last season as he will this year: Sixth man, jack of (many) trades, rebounder, and- on the good days- a game changer.

(Read full post)

2011 roster breakdown: Steve Blake

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
12:26
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Steve Blake

Salary

$ 4,000,000

Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Steve Blake could be elbowing Derek Fisher out of some PT.



Role For The Lakers In 2010-11
When Derek Fisher returned to the Lakers in 2008, it was assumed he would initially start, but the bulk of the minutes would gradually be eaten by either Jordan Farmar, (at the time) Javaris Crittenton, or (the following year) Shannon Brown. The thinking was, one of those players would surely emerge as an heir apparent, and Fisher would begin transitioning into the "more of a veteran presence" stage of his career. Three years (and a new contract) later, the starting gig still must be pried from Fisher's hands, while Farmar is in New Jersey, Crittenton is unemployed and Shannon Brown remains a Laker, but is no longer being groomed as a point guard. Fisher's playoff heroics and speechifying powers cemented his already-obvious value, but his shaky regular season reinforced the need for a capable hand to help carry a reasonable load.

Blake will get a shot, and I think the Lakers have finally landed the right guy. (At the very least, they landed a guy who has made a career out of bringing his best against the Lakers, so a semi-thorn in the side has been removed.)

(Read full post)

2010-11 roster breakdown: Shannon Brown

August, 19, 2010
8/19/10
11:38
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Shannon Brown

Salary
$2.2 million

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Shannon Brown has the dunk thing sussed. This year, the Lakers hope he rounds out the rest of his game.



Role for the Lakers in 2010-11
Brown averaged a career high 20.7 minutes playing in all 82 games, generally in relief of Kobe Bryant at the two, but starting seven times as well. A crowd favorite since arriving in L.A. along with Adam Morrison in the Vlad Radmanovic deal, Brown spent the first half of last year making himself more than just an energy-providing, high-flying dunker. His shot, never exactly a Paxsonesque model of reliability, found the mark more frequently, and more importantly Brown's confidence and comfort in the offense increased.

Then he hurt his thumb against the Pacers at the beginning of March, and much of the good stuff went away. The shot, the confidence, the upward curve in decision making within the offense. To his credit, Brown played though the pain, but the thumb problem sucked a lot of the wind from his sails. He wasn't nearly as reliable over the final weeks of the season and into the playoffs.

The silver lining? Had Brown continued on his upward trajectory, there's a far better chance another team would have made him an offer he couldn't refuse, with which the Lakers couldn't compete. Instead, he returns to L.A. for very reasonable money to serve the same role he played on the team last season. Brown will be the primary backup to Bryant, relied on to add athleticism to the backcourt, bring a different sort of defensive pressure, and generally work hard all the time. He'll be the "change of pace" guard, but as a guy who can finish on the break rather than one who will run it, as Jordan Farmar was last year (to varying degrees of success). The presence of a legitimate backup three in Matt Barnes could cut into Brown's minutes, depending on how much time Kobe spends on the wing. But whether he equals last year's minutes or falls a little short, Brown will play.
PODCAST
Andy Kamenetzky talks with Lakers guard Shannon Brown about the three-peat quest, becoming a complete basketball player and his embarrassment of riches on Twitter.

Podcast
Listen
The Lakers didn't bring him back to sit on the bench.

Best Case Scenario
Brown builds on his positive first half from last season. Understanding of the offense's finer points, which has come in fits and starts, ramps up as Brown goes through his second training camp with the team. His shot, from mid-range and beyond the arc, becomes a reliable weapon. Brown gains confidence moving the ball on the break, as well, becoming a solid facilitator, not just a finisher, and helping him gain more use as a pure point (at least one pure enough to hit the proper triggers in the offense) and widening the options available to Phil Jackson.

Defensively, Brown develops greater awareness of proper positional defense, helping him be more effective on that side of the floor.

All together, the improvement not only helps solidify the bench, but allows Jackson to give Kobe and Derek Fisher more rest. The Lakers get far more bang than $2.2 million typically delivers on the free agent market.

Worst Case Scenario
It turns out the thumb wasn't the issue with Brown over the season's second half, but rather the improvement and potential of the first half was the mirage. He hits a wall in his development, making Brown tougher to rely on as a backup to Bryant and forcing the Lakers to either play Steve Blake more at the two, thus extending Derek Fisher's minutes, or cross their fingers with Sasha Vujacic. Either scenario knocks a few blocks from the giant Jenga puzzle that is L.A.'s backcourt stability, hurting the foundation. Jackson has fewer opportunities to move Bryant to small forward, limiting the looks other teams see from the Lakers as well as Kobe's effectiveness.

The good news, at least, is Brown's modest contract for this season makes it almost impossible for the Lakers to lose out financially.

Previous Breakdowns

Derrick Caracter/Devin Ebanks
Luke Walton
Sasha Vujacic
Matt Barnes

Theo Ratliff

2011 roster breakdown: Theo Ratliff

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
11:17
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Theo Ratliff

Salary

$854,389

Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images
Look at Old Man Ratliff get up there!



Role For The Lakers In 2010-2011
It's not easy being a third string player on a championship team. You work very hard, but the payoff rarely arrives in tangible form. You're told to remain mentally ready, but the odds favor remaining physically stagnant. You don't have to like sparse playing time (nor should you, really), but you have to accept it.

From mid-2008 through 2010, D.J. Mbenga played this role at center for the Lakers. On the whole, he did an admirable job staying focused, working hard for little acclaim and performing well when called up upon. But over the course of last season, the job constraints began to wear on Mbenga, who felt he could be on the floor more often. During the Finals against Boston, Phil Jackson noted how Josh Powell (another third stringer) remained sharp during these long stints without PT, but Mbenga had allowed his mind to wander. Not so coincidentally, Adam Morrison was suddenly activated for a game in favor of D.J., despite Andrew Bynum's balky knee and Ammo's last bit of run coming in approximately 1997. A message was clearly sent. It may very well have been received, but during his exit interview, Mbenga reiterated his desire to get more run, making a split feel even more imminent.

It could be argued Mbenga has an inflated sense of skill. During the sporadic occasions of extended run, the returns were mixed and often increasingly diminished the longer he remained on the court. He also remains unsigned, and a landing spot is hard to predict. Nonetheless, D.J.'s desire to grow as a player is understandable and admirable. Unfortunately, it doesn't mesh with what is needed.

Enter Theo Ratliff, who strikes me as the best of both worlds in this setup.

(Read full post)

2011 Roster Breakdown: Matt Barnes

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
10:07
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...


Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images
Barnes' willingness to scrap with Kobe helped get him a gig with the Lakers.



Player
Matt Barnes

Salary
$1,765,500

Role For The Lakers in 2010-2011
The Lakers spent last season without a designated backup for Ron Artest. Luke Walton was mostly shelved. Adam Morrison was out of the rotation. Sasha Vujacic was often injured and/or out of the rotation, not to mention undersized. Thus, the responsibility primarily fell on Kobe Bryant. The difference this upcoming campaign should be pretty striking. Barnes is as good a backup small forward as the league offers, not to mention a bargain at under two mil.

He also happens to possess several qualities that could mesh well in the Lakers' quest for a Three-peat.

Barnes is known mostly as a defensive presence (or irritant, depending who you ask). I wouldn't quite describe his prowess as "lockdown," but he's among the more relentless and enthusiastic in the league. And his ability to help the D isn't just a matter of checking opponents. Barnes holds his own against any small forward in the league on the glass. Rebounding is an underrated aspect of defense, and as we learned during the Finals, a key to securing the O'Brien trophy. Between Barnes and Lamar Odom, many a loose ball should fall the Lakers' way when the second unit takes the floor.

PODCAST
Former Bruin & newest Laker, Matt Barnes shares a conversation with the Kamenetzky Bros as they discuss his many stops in the NBA and how he settled on the Lakers for his newest destination.

Podcast Listen
While appearing Saturday with us on ESPNLA.com On-Air, Barnes talked about studying game film over the summer to familiarize himself with the famously complicated-for-newbies triangle offense. Good stuff, and I enjoyed even more the unsolicited -- and warranted -- mention of an ability to play off the ball. The triangle isn't just predicated on ball movement. People movement is also necessary, and this skill set should help Barnes fit into the system despite his being somewhat turnover prone, and not quite the three-point shooter he sometimes fancies himself.

(Read full post)

2011 roster breakdown: Sasha Vujacic

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
7:36
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...

Player
Sasha Vujacic

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Sasha hit two clutch freebies to clinch a title, but his season was mostly frustrating.



Salary
$ 5,475,133

Role For The Lakers In 2010-2011
Everyone loves to finish on a high note. Sasha managed to do that in Game 7 of the Finals by canning a crucial pair of free throws with eleven seconds left, despite having sat almost the entire fourth quarter. Unfortunately, this note was among few qualifying as "high" for Vujacic last season. He was yanked in and (mostly) out of the rotation. Shoulder and ankle injuries pushed him off the floor even more. Ditto his spat with Assistant Coach Brian Shaw. (As for a seriously ill-timed feud with Goran Dragic, Sasha's just lucky Kobe Bryant opted for saving his ass over the first impulse, which involved a fist to the jaw.)

There were reports a-plenty of the Lakers attempting to move Sasha as a pure salary dump in order to make signing Shannon Brown financially easier. Brown was signed anyway, but I'm guessing avenues for relocation will continue to be explored. I'm also guessing the Lakers won't find a taker, or at least not until the deadline approaches.

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As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...


Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
It remains to be seen whether Walton will be
healthy enough next season to help facilitate
the offense.



Player
Luke Walton

Salary
$ 5.26 million

Role for 2010-2011

The quintessential "your guess is as good as mine" crap shoot. Never a strong bet to go a season without an injury, 2010 was a particularly bruised affair for Walton. A bad back limited him to a career-low 29 games, with stats mirroring that valley nearly across the board. During his exit interview, Luke expressed hope surgery could be avoided, but to the best of my knowledge, a date with the knife hasn't been ruled out. Mitch Kupchak drafted Devin Ebanks in part as insurance should the seven-year veteran miss a large chunk of time. Since then, Kupchak has expressed concern Walton could miss the entire 2011 season. Hence, the signing of Matt Barnes.

Backs can be difficult to treat and even harder to predict. They can be set off by anything from hard contact to a sneeze to just sleeping funny. One day you feel great. The next day, horrible. But whatever lack of progress for Walton since last preseason (when this ailment first surfaced) hasn't been for lack of trying. Or lack of desire to carry his weight. I can say with absolute certainty Luke's not the kind of player content to simply cash an unearned check. He was quite unhappy and frustrated by this turn of events.

Unfortunately, the same experience could be on tap next season.

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0