Bench balance and strength will be key for Lakers

December, 18, 2011
12/18/11
9:46
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Metta World Peace had the least productive campaign of his 12-year career last season, averaging career lows in points per game (8.5), rebounds per game (3.3) and shooting percentage (39.7).

Lamar Odom had one of the best seasons of this career last year and was named the league's top sixth man before the Lakers traded him to Dallas.

In a move to try to kill two birds with one stone, new Lakers coach Mike Brown is moving World Peace to the bench this season to try to make up for the loss of Odom while simultaneously reviving World Peace's career by making him accountable as the leader of the second unit.

It's a worthwhile gamble.

World Peace, who averaged 17.1 points per game in Houston the season before coming to L.A., found himself deferring to the Lakers trio of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum far too much when he was on the court with the starters.

It is Brown's first bold move since taking over the team from Phil Jackson and it's a telling one. Brown is making the bench a top priority.

Not only did the Lakers trade Odom, they lost free agent Shannon Brown who signed with Phoenix. Odom and Shannon Brown accounted for about 23 of the 35 points (66 percent) that the Lakers bench averaged last season.

Brown, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes as a collective were given the nickname the “Killer B's” during the Lakers' 8-0 start for their group contributions off the bench, but as the season dragged on their production waned.

Barnes missed 29 games because of injury and suspension. Blake never quite found his rhythm in the triangle offense and missed the last week of the regular season because of chickenpox. Just by virtue of Barnes being healthy and Blake playing in a system that suits his skill set better, the bench will get a boost. Another player already on the roster ready to make a leap in production is second-year forward Devin Ebanks, who hardly played last year as a rookie.

The Lakers also added free agents Jason Kapono, Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy to try to shore up their second unit and are looking to add another guard at the veteran’s minimum before the season begins.

“It’s extremely important to have some balance to your roster,” said Derek Fisher. “Regardless of who starts or who comes off the bench, there has to be a cohesiveness and an ability to do things differently with different lineups that are key to teams' success.”

While the Lakers size led them to consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010 and caused the rest of the league to play copycat by trying to get bigger, it was the Dallas Mavericks' depth that set them apart as champions last year and so now the Lakers are the ones copying the Mavs.

“When you think about what the Mavericks were able to accomplish last season, it wasn't because of a particular guy that came off the bench, but it was because of the entire team,” Fisher said. “Not just their starters, but guys who came off the bench and they made key contributions at key times and they were all ready to play and prepared to play. That's something that we can learn from going into this season. Everybody has to be prepared and ready to play when they get in the game.”

For Mike Brown, who once coached a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was starting the likes of Sasha Pavlovic, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden all the way to the NBA Finals, he feels as if he already has enough quality players to be successful this season.

“I like our depth,” Brown said. “Right now it’s not solidified yet, but I feel good about every position that we have and the guys that are to be playing off the bench in those positions. So, I'm excited about seeing what this team will be able to do in a week's, week-and-a-half's time on the 25th of December when it counts for real.”

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 4.9 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.2
AssistsK. Bryant 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2