Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers Bench

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 86, Hawks 78

February, 14, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky

The middle two quarters may have been the ugliest I've ever seen, as the Hawks and Lakers combined -- combined! -- for 59 points. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol couldn't buy a bucket, and collectively the teams seemed determined to punish fans for shelling out their hard earned money for something as frivilous as basketball tickets.

But in the end, the Lakers got it together, going on a run to finish the third and pulling away down the stretch. Here are five takeaways...

1. Matt Barnes had some hop.

The Lakers are not a swift, dynamic bunch. Barnes is one of the few guys on the roster who makes things happen with movement, and Tuesday he absolutely energized the team (to whatever degree this game had energy) doing the stuff he does best. Slicing through the lane, he converted a nice pass from Bryant into points, then later got up the floor and, like the standout wide receiver he once was, hauled in a long bomb from Steve Blake for an easy deuce. Even on the ball, not generally his strength, Barnes found ways to produce. In the first half, with the shot clock running down, he put the ball on the floor from the top of the key, then wrapped a nice pass to Troy Murphy for a corner 3.

Throughout the game, Barnes was constantly moving towards the rim, running the wing, and aggressively closing on perimeter shooters. He finished with seven points and five rebounds, plus one assist, steal, and block each.

2. So did Metta World Peace.

Maybe he should pop off at the coach more often?

Whatever the cause, MWP was very active tonight, not just defensively, where he spent a lot of time against Joe Johnson with very positive effects, but also on the other end. He closed the first half with a 3-pointer from the right corner that the Hawks, to put it mildly, let him take. (Had they simply left the floor before the horn, World Peace wouldn't have been more open.) The second half brought another triple, and even a thunderous drive through the paint, capped by a dunk. Then he dunked again! One-dunk MWP games are a rarity these days. Double dunk games generally arrive at the arena saddled up on a unicorn.

He finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

World Peace's days as a premier player are gone, but it makes a significant difference for the Lakers when he's not a liability. When he's actually a positive influence, it's even better.

POSTGAME UPDATE: Apparently, World Peace switched from high tops to low tops at halftime. Perhaps that explains his burst in the third and fourth quarters. Less weight keeping him down.

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The Forum: The bench and other holes

February, 10, 2012
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
In the newest edition of The Forum, we take a look at the Lakers' bench with 710 ESPN hoops analyst Dave Miller. What impact does the consistently thin production from the reserves have on a game in, game out basis?

Factoring in the similarly dismal output from the small forward and point guard spots, the picture becomes clear. L.A.'s problems aren't about their Big Three, but the 11 guys working behind them, something made pretty clear in Boston last night, despite the big win.

Lamar Odom's return emphasizes the holes left behind

January, 16, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky

It will be strange to see Lamar Odom take the floor Monday night in a Dallas Mavericks uniform, something not at all lost on his former teammates Sunday afternoon at practice. Not that the transition to Texas has been smooth. Odom's first 13 games wearing blue and green have been a disaster-- 6.8 points on 31 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and a career-low 20 minutes a night -- as Odom struggles not just with fitness or the hurt of being shipped out by the Lakers, but also a summer filled with tragedy.

This for a guy who at 32 already has absorbed more than a lifetime's worth of death and sadness.

Still, his slow start combined with L.A.'s relative success has, at least for some portion of the fan base, created a line of argument that the Lakers are better off without him. They're not. While Odom was definitely set for a step back from last year's Sixth Man of the Year performance regardless of the lockout or anything he endured in the offseason -- history suggests last season's high-end outside shooting was the exception, not the rule -- I suspect he'd be playing better with the Lakers than he is in Dallas. It might take a while, but eventually he'd round into useful form.

Regardless, Odom's return highlights the ways in which his absence has punched holes in the L.A. roster. Mitch Kupchak did a decent job this offseason with limited resources, signing Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy to bolster the frontcourt, and adding Jason Kapono as a sniper. Still, Odom's production from last year (and, to a lesser degree, Shannon Brown's) hasn't been replicated, whether by any combination of the new players or by sliding Metta World Peace to the second unit.

Bench scoring for the Lakers is down from 27.7 points a game last year to 21.3 this season, while the group's efficiency differential has plummeted, as well. In a nutshell, the Lakers are getting very, very little production off the pine. Perhaps more importantly, Odom's departure also robbed the Lakers of their second-best shot creator and secondary ball handler, helping explain the corresponding rise in Kobe Bryant's workload not just as a scorer, but a facilitator as well.

The change in skill sets is one of a litany of other factors providing real obstacles to the group's improvement. Mike Brown hit on many in the clip above, following Sunday's practice. Two big ones:

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Kobe Bryant
24.6 5.0 1.4 35.4
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 5.0
StealsK. Bryant 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2