With his high-flying dunks and gritty style of play, Josh McRoberts quickly became a fan favorite after signing with the Lakers as a free agent during training camp.
It seems that just as quickly as the "McRambis" and "McLoberts" nicknames became part of Lakers fans' vernacular, McRoberts ceased to be a part of the Lakers' rotation.
McRoberts received a DNP-CD against Denver and played just 10 minutes combined in the Lakers' previous two games against the Bobcats and Timberwolves. Meanwhile, Troy Murphy's playing time has shot up as the 11-year veteran averaged 21.7 minutes and 7.3 points on 58.3 percent shooting in the last three games and the Lakers have gone 3-0.
"Troy has just played pretty good basketball," Lakers coach Mike Brown said before the Lakers played Utah on Saturday. "We’ve played pretty good basketball with him in the lineup. So, that’s the only reason why. We tried to start the season rotating four bigs. Then we went to three bigs. Then I think we went to four bigs again. We’re back at three bigs and I feel comfortable with where we’re at right now. It can average out to about 27-28 minutes for Troy and right about 34-35 for Pau [Gasol] and Andrew [Bynum]. If I can keep it there, then that’s pretty good."
When the season tipped off, McRoberts was in the starting lineup as Bynum served a four-game suspension. He had his moments -- six points, eight rebounds and two blocks on Christmas Day against Chicago and 10 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks against New York -- before a sprained big toe on his left foot caused him to miss seven games. As the Lakers struggled to shoot from the outside, falling to last in the league in team 3-point shooting percentage at one point, Murphy established value with his shot-making ability.
"He’s helped space the floor with the second unit. He’s helped with the young kid, relieving some pressure off of him when he’s in trouble – playing pick-and-roll off of him or pick-and-pop with him," Brown said, referring to Murphy's chemistry on the court with rookie Andrew Goudelock. "He’s been solid defensively. He’s been OK rebounding the ball. Mainly, he hasn’t hurt us defensively and he hasn’t really hurt us rebounding the ball and so I think he’s helped us more than anything else on the offensive end where we need a little bit of help with production, especially spacing the floor to give Andrew some room."
So, Brown was asked, is McRoberts simply the odd man out?
"At least for the time being he is, but that can change at any time," Brown said. "You know how this league is injury wise, knock on wood, or anything else. They just have to kind of keep themselves ready."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.