Return of the Bench Mob?

Jeff Skibiski —  July 24, 2010

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With a roster as top-heavy as the Lakers, it’s easy to knock the bench for not performing at the same level as the starters. Biases aside though, it goes without saying that the Lakers’ bench struggled at times last season, with Lamar Odom serving as the only reliable force on a team that won an NBA title almost in spite of its sub-par reserve corps. This offseason has brought swift, if not expected change to the forum blue and gold’s roster though, as Mitch Kupchak has masterfully found a way to fill six open roster spots with proven NBA players, while also drafting two promising second-round picks, who both stand a good chance of making the team. Darius posted a great write-up yesterday about the additions of Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff—two players who, along with Steve Blake, Odom, Sasha Vujacic and the possible return of Shannon Brown, should go a long way toward re-creating the bench mob that propelled the team to an unexpected title run in 2007-08. More importantly, they will allow veterans like Kobe, Artest and Fisher to play less minutes, while also providing insurance against injury. Even though some of the pieces are still moving, we take a look at just how deep is this year’s team is compared to other potential contenders around the league.

Barring any major surprise moves, Boston essentially brings back the same bench that helped them pull away from the Lakers in Game 4 of the Finals last season, minus defensive ace Tony Allen. They swapped out the underperforming Rasheed Wallace for another perennial underperformer in Jermaine O’Neal, though the latter’s more consistent production at this stage of his career should represent an upgrade for the C’s. Boston also re-signed Nate Robinson, who played in the post-season for the first time last year with mixed results. Their overall depth chart took a hit though when starting center Kendrick Perkins underwent surgery nearly two weeks ago that will likely keep him out until next January or February. O’Neal and Glen Davis will certainly help fill that void, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Boston picks up another piece before training camp starts.

The constantly evolving Miami Heat roster has rounded into shape quite nicely for Pat Riley, with the organization successfully luring several former veteran difference-makers to play alongside the Superfriends. Depending on whether or not head coach Erik Spoelstra chooses to start the newly re-signed Carlos Arroyo at the point, the team’s bench will likely consist of NBA journeyman Jamaal Magloire, Udonis Haslem, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, James Jones, Mario Chalmers and Juwan Howard. Mike Miller will fit in there somewhere, but again, that depends on what type of lineup the Heat ultimately decide to use. In any case, the team has flanked Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh with savvy veteran leaders who only improve Miami’s status as an instant contender.

The Orlando Magic have operated with arguably the league’s best bench unit for a few years running now and will once again bring back a strong second unit in 2010-11. While the Lakers poached Barnes from Dwight Howard and Co., Orlando added some scoring punch with the additions of Chris Duhon to back up Jameer Nelson and Quentin Richardson as another outside shooting threat. Combined with the newly re-signed J.J. Redick, Martin Gortat and Brandon Bass, the Magic boast an explosive, albeit defensively underwhelming bench.

Fresh off of a six-game series against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, the Phoenix Suns will bring back a decidedly different roster next season after the departure of Amar’e Stoudemire, the trade for Hedo Turkoglu and free agent signings of Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick. The moves made by Phoenix after losing Stoudemire have fallen under the radar this off-season, but their roster is still loaded with versatility and adept shooting, not to mention Steve Nash. Phoenix could go with a number of different lineups, but assuming that Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill and Robin Lopez all remain starters, that results in a possible bench of Childress, Channing Frye, Warrick, Goran Dragic and Jared Dudley, with one of those players being used to fill the void at starting power forward. Phoenix will miss Leandro Barbosa, who was shipped to Toronto in the trade for Turkoglu, but they have re-tooled in a hurry and will undoubtedly prove to be a matchup nightmare for many teams.

The Mavericks weren’t able to entice Cleveland into a sign-and-trade deal for LeBron, but they have re-tinkered their roster a bit around Dirk Nowitzki by trading for Tyson Chandler and re-signing Brendan Haywood. Super-sub Jason Terry and the under-used Jose Juan Barea form a potent bench for Dallas that will keep them in contention once again next season. Those pesky Oklahoma City Thunder bring back virtually the same bench that took the Lakers to six games in the First Round last season, led by Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Nick Collison and Eric Maynor. The Thunder traded two first round picks to New Orleans for outside shooting specialist Morris Peterson and promising rookie Cole Aldrich, who will provide much-needed size for Oklahoma City’s undersized front line. San Antonio also improved its front line when Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter, selected by the Spurs in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft, finally agreed to sign with the team to back up an aging Tim Duncan. The same can’t be said for Denver, who wasn’t able to land the free agent big-man they so desperately needed to sign with their mid-level exception, leading them to sign another one-way player in Al Harrington.

One of the primary reasons the Lakers teams were so successful at the beginning of the decade was the front office’s careful management of the roster around Kobe and Shaq. Flash forward 10 years and the front office continues to support Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, Artest and Odom with key role players off the bench. Moreover, these are players in Blake, Barnes and Ratliff who are hungry for an NBA championship and will surely keep the team’s title aspirations moving along in the same way Artest did last season. Sometimes, a small tweak in personnel here and there is all that is needed when molding NBA benches, but I would venture to say that the Lakers have gone a step beyond that by not only directly addressing their greatest need—point guard—but also signing players like Barnes who will potentially play a huge role defensively against other title contenders’ top threats. Further, Blake, Barnes and Ratliff will add much-needed consistency off the pine—something that Jordan Farmar, Josh Powell, D.J. Mbenga and Luke Walton were never able to provide. The end result is a versatile, complete team that is well-prepared to defend its crown.

Jeff Skibiski

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43 responses to Return of the Bench Mob?

  1. Its on now! That’s all we needed was a new bench mob! Miami will be knocked off!

  2. Lakers reloaded. They will probably be in the finals again in 2011 barring any serious injuries. Of course let’s hope they meet Miami.

    The 3 amigos vs. the Black Mamba. Looking forward.

  3. Miami hasn’t proven anything yet, so how can they be knocked off?

  4. Jeff, you forgot about fitting Turkoglu into the
    Suns lineup.

  5. Joem,

    I didn’t forget about Turkoglu and actually think he’s a great fit for the Suns’ offense–one of the more underrated moves of the offseason in my opinion. Hedu is obviously a starter-quality player (both in skill and contract) and if Phoenix uses him as such, he’ll have to be slotted in at PF if Phoenix continues to start Grant Hill. That’s obviously a pretty small lineup though, with Lopez the only starter capable of providing any type of defensive presence against larger teams like the Lakers. On the flip side, the Suns continued their makeover back to the run-and-gun style that worked so well for them in the middle of the decade. With Childress, Frye and Hedu in tow, Phoenix is rich with versatile forward-types that could work well in either starting or bench roles.

  6. I think the Beaubois kid in Dallas is worthy of mention as an asset over there.

    The Kup has filled our team to the brim. I like this team’s chances of being an even tougher scrappier bunch then last year and, barring injury, I think we’ll see an even more consistent team then we have the last few years. I loved seeing Drew game out the playoffs and it tells me he is ready to make another step in the right direction as long as his injuries remain behind him. With him as the defensive anchor the team is going to come at the league in waves that only Miami’s athleticism can hope to match. My bet is that the Lakers will need all that depth and scrap to make it through next year’s playoffs.

    Specifically on Barnes. He did a fine job in Orlando and PHX and I really liked him at UCLA. But, the beauty of what the GSW did a few seasons ago was the chaos. Barnes’ versatility, his length and activity level, were a huge part of that run. He knows how to be a part of a defensive unit and it seems to me that this is what the Kup has designed. With all the individually great offensive talent of Kobe and Gasol, plus the way guys like LO, Bynum, Artest and Fish bring their talents to the offense, I think the continued familiarity is the biggest asset that role players bring to the triangle. The Lakers have managed to retain a considerable amount of continuity while injecting energy and defensive aggression into the unit ever since losing to Boston those many moons ago. I think PJ is going to really enjoy playing with line-ups during the season and then using his combinations to attack the weaknesses of whoever we come up against in the playoffs.

  7. thisisweaksauce July 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I think our bench of the past two championship seasons had the talent, just not the consistency. It was more a mental issue I think; a commitment to defense, to smart basketball decisions on the court (especially in terms of running the sets) was the thing that lacked in the bench. I fully believe that if committed, we had one of the best benches in the league. I know that many would disagree with me, with the consensus that we won mostly because of our top 6 players. But there were days when our bench performed superbly, and I feel that we wouldn’t have our two championships without their contributions (Farmar’s dive for the ball in Game 6, anyone?). It was more of a roller coaster ride; some days they sucked, while other days they were legit. But hey, there’s a new season ahead of us. I’m really excited with the moves Mitch has made.

  8. While I think the Lakers will be better next year, I don’t think their signings were THAT great. Matt Barnes and Steve are both pretty good backups but that’s it. I think the more improved thing is the point guard position. Last year when Kobe was on the bench and Pau or Andrew was in the game Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown tried to go one and one instead of feeding the post. So Steve Blake is a big improvement over Farmar even though he’s not techinically any better.

  9. It appears that the Lakers have a great chance of making a 4th straight nba finals with teams like Portland, OKC, Phoenix & Dallas standing on their path to the Finals. I like our line-up and cant wait what we will see from the two rookies we have drafted.

  10. Laker’s depth coming off the bench was my concern as well during the season but what management has done this off season answers those questions of depth, defense, guard support and outside scoring. So the Lakers have not been sitting on their hands this off-season, resigning Fisher, acquiring Blake, Barnes, Ratliff, and two second round draft picks Ebanks and Character (who showed off in the summer league and looked very promising as teammates during the upcoming season). I just hope they also answers the speed issue when they play some of the younger team like the Thunder.

  11. swedishmeatballs July 24, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Very off-topic.

    I plan to attend the Lakers vs Regal FC Barcelona exhibition in october, in Barcelona, and I’m wondering if there is any likelyhood I’ll be seeing Kobe or even Lamar/Bynum there? or PJ? I know you guys can’t know for sure either, but any insight on the entertainment value/superstar participation at these events is valuable. Wouldn’t want to pay for a Pau + Taco Unit showing with Shaw/Hamblen/Cleamons coaching..

  12. Frank,
    People keep talking about competing with speed, but each year that fear doesn’t play out. Our team is not as fast as Phoenix, but we are not unathletic.

    Speed always kills better in the regular season and the Lakers are simply not built to compete as well in the regular season. We use the season to integrate our new players and reaffirm the process of players thinking out problems on-the-court.

    We are built for the playoffs, when the pace slows down due to constantly playing the same opponent and eliminating back-to-backs. Our bench will shorten, but the advantage will occur if an injury occurs and we need to use a 9th or 10th guy in the rotation.

  13. Craig W., amen. I’m already bracing myself for the complaints about why the Lakers aren’t dominating everyone and threatening to win 75+ games.

    Phil’s m.o. is to build and mold the team during the regular season. With significant new role players in Blake and Barnes, I expect a lot of tinkering from Phil the first 25-30 games as he tries to figure out combinations and see how those two react in certain situations. Not to mention the two rookies will probably get some early burn so Phil can see what they can offer.

    I’m really expecting some weird lineups and times when those weird lineups are left out there for extended periods. But that’s what Phil does and who can argue with his results?

  14. Just something to throw out there lets say we don’t sign brown back in the end because he wants more money/playing time ok!!!! could we sign AI for the vets min. to back up kobe that is assuming he’ll accept coming off the bench and then sign our 2 rookies. think about it if that were to happen we could cut all our starters min. in half every game during the reg. season because our second unit is/would be good enough to be starters on another team.

    Blake
    AI? Brown? Vujacic
    Barnes
    Odom
    Ratliff

    Not to mention we have our 2 rookies we can throw in as well.

  15. Shaq reportedly wants to play for Boston. If that happens, (regardless of whether the Lakers play them in the finals or not), I feel should be enough reason for the Lakers NOT to retire O’Neal’s jersey in the future

  16. Safe to say we are all impressed with the offseason signings.

    Concerning Barnes- He’s taken the same route that Steve Kerr and our very own Derek Fisher. Not the road less traveled but more the road or crazy offense. Kerr and Fisher learned to look for their own shots on the Blazers and Warriors respectively. Barnes has been able to go to the Warriors and the Suns and been green lighted to let it fly, hence the up and down shooting numbers.

    The triangle is great at creating those corner threes, and yes Barnes will not hesitate to let them fly. Just remember we can’t live and die with every three point attempt. It is such a hard shot that we have to realize that an expectation of 3-10 is okay. All we can ask for is for Barnes to get acclimated to the offense and to be a defensive presence. Anything above that is just extra.

  17. Phillip,

    Rather than “The Bench Mob,” this new Laker team might better be referred to as “The Defenders.” Until we have a clearer idea of the fate of Luke and ShanWOW, and a better indication of how well our draft choices fit in–if they are signed–the roles of some key players on the Lakers will remain murky.

    So far, the Heat are a team of smoke and mirrors. Riles has been shuffling and redealing teams for a long time–with mixed results. How many players have been run through Heat rosters in the last 5 years? Until his collection of Jokers, ancient royalty, and diamonds in the rough find their way to the Heat stadium from South Beach, let’s hold judgement on whether he has the makings of a grand slam–or comes up a few aces shy.

    Likewise, almost all Laker potential opponent teams–West and East–are still very much in a state of flux. Come October, we’ll have a better idea, but we probably won’t really get a good sense of the challenges, both from the inside and outside, until January at the earliest.

    Let’s just agree that if the Lakers actually threepeat, they will deserve it at least as much as the last two championships–and begin to enjoy the journey once again.

  18. drrayeye makes some good points. It’s still very early, and we don’t yet know how any of these teams will gel once they get on the floor. But on the surface, the moves the Lakers have made this off season seem to be right on point.

    I thought Jeff’s wrie-up was well done, though I disagree with his thoughts on a couple of the teams he’d profiled.

    Hedo or not, Phoenix is still a much smaller team than the Lakers. Amare was their one solid weapon in the paint, and he’s now a Knick. Turkoglu is a match-up nightmare for many teams, but I like the Lakers chances with Artest or Odom putting some size and height in his grill. I just don’t see the moves Phoenix has made this summer putting them over the hump. Also, keep in mind the continuity that was tossed out the window from that front office when Sarver and Kerr couldn’t come to terms. Things like that often trickle down to the floor.

    Likewise, I’m not sold on the moves Miami has made aside from the obvious additions of LeBron and Bosh. You can beat that team by controlling the tempo, playing inside and not letting guys get out on the wings.

    For all this talk about LeBron assuming a Magic Johnson-like role this season, my counterpoint is, “Where is his Kareem?” Without a reliable guy to rebound, to defend the paint and to score in the half court sets, Miami’s going to have trouble in the playoffs, especially against a team like Boston (if healthy) or Orlando. Not to say this new Heat troika will never hoist the trophy, but I’m just not sold that they’ll be in the mix this season given the lack of size and skill up front. Who guards Bynum? Who guards Pau? Those are questions Riley needs to address.

    In the west, I see the biggest threat being the Thunder. Denver could be there, though the threat of Melo’s free agency lingering like a black cloud could unravel those pea brains.

  19. 17.

    Kinda confused with the post. You’re addressing Jeff, right?

    In any case though, I agree about Miami. Can’t say it’s the real deal yet until we’ve seen everything actually mesh together.

  20. Not impressed with Phoenix changes. I think they’ll find that you can’t replace a great player by adding a couple average players and one good one. They will not advance as far as they did in 2010.

  21. (18) Yes, BB, my gaffe. The NBA never quite turns out the way we think it will–and that is very good!

    I don’t know who will emerge, but I’m convinced that there are teams hiding below the radar in both divisions.

  22. I might be the only one who thinks this – but I have this sneaking feeling that the Laker front office has developed a psychosis about averting a “soft” roster. Yes – defense wins championships. The Lakers franchise knows that first hand. But there’s something about the roster moves the past two off-seasons… every one has been an upgrade to toughness, an upgrade to defense, an upgrade of basketball IQ. Not that defense is bad, and certainly not that the guys we’ve picked up aren’t good offensive players. But, I sort of have a nagging worry that this sort of foreshadows an imminent disaster. Mitch has completely ignored the Lakers second biggest weakness behind the PG position – the lack of driving, slashing, wings who can open the paint up to the close-to-the-basket skills of our bigs. It’s always supposed to be Lamar – and we know he CAN do it. He just doesn’t. As it is, the Lakers rely too much on the triangle. All of the previous Lakers/Bulls incarnations prior to the current 07-present version had at least one major slasher who was an excellent playmaker, and then guys who could spread the floor. The current team has neither. This Lakers team can be “easily” countermatched by a roster of tough on-ball defenders. Miami is close, and that worries me. LeBron is the best defensive 3 when he tries. Wade is the best defensive 1 in the game (he’ll be matched at the 1 with their clutch lineup – Wade/Miller/James/Bosh/Haslem), and Bosh is an underrated defender. Miller and Haslem are weak… but they can be minimized. I think that the Miami defense will be more formidable than people realize – tougher than even Boston perhaps. The inability of the Lakers to create plays outside of the triangle might well be their demise.

  23. 18

    I agree completely with your take on Miami. The Finals ended less than 2 months ago and it seems some people have already forgotten the importance of controlling the paint.

    This might actually become an issue before any hypothetical matchup with the Lakers. People scoff at Dwight Howard’s rudimentary offensive skills, but didn’t he dismantle the Cavs in 2009 because they didn’t have anyone to guard him one-on-one? You think he’s quaking in his boots at the prospect of facing Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem?

    All that being said I think Miami has done a solid job putting capable pieces around their Big Three in such a short space of time. As for my thoughts on the rest:

    Boston: Losing Tony Allen really hurts their depth on the wings and their perimeter D. Daniels has to step up now. O’Neal is an upgrade over Sheed though.

    Orlando: I think Williams is better offensively than Duhon, but Duhon is a better defender. Keeping Redick makes them arguably the deepest team in the league once again.

    Phoenix: Not sure exactly how their bench shakes out but between Childress, Turkoglu, and Warrick it should be even more potent next season.

    Dallas: After all the hoopla over Dampier’s expiring contract, Tyson Chandler was their big move? Really? He does add length and athleticism to their bench and a contract year could get best out of him.

    OKC: I suspect Ibaka will work his way into the starting 5 at some point. Anyway, they have a scrappy bench but they need Cook and or Peterson to provide some more scoring and shooting off the pine.

    Spurs: By all accounts Splitter should help quite a bit, but barring a bounceback year from Jefferson I still think they’re a piece or 2 short of contending.

    Nuggets: Harrington is a decent stopgap solution with Martin and Andersen hurt, but they really needed a defender/rebounder, not a scorer.

    What about Portland? I actually think they will be a major threat and their depth rivals Orlando’s.

    Miller/Bayless
    Roy/Fernandez/Matthews
    Batum
    Aldridge/Camby
    Oden/Przybilla

    That’s not a bad top 10 with youngsters like Pendergraph, Mills, and Cunningham in the mix.

  24. Sorry, anonymous above is me.

  25. @ 11 – I would be very surprised if Kobe didn’t at least make a 8-10 minute appearance. The league wants the rest of the world to see it’s teams. Also, out of respect for Pau and his love of country, you’ll likely see most of our big names play some.

    As for Miami – they are a paper tiger right now and nothing more until they prove it. Let’s see if this translates into the immediate success that LeGone so craves.

    I still think Orlando is the better team in the Sunshine State.

  26. Once again Mitch Kup has been doing his homework and proving that he is a great GM. He got rid of waste on the bench and brought in upgrades all around. I really don’t think the Lakers will miss Walton at all. He’s at best a role player and even at that he doesn’t contribute enough to be missed on the court. Barmes is definetly a huge upgrade and will provide another huge weapon off the bench. Ratliff allows Gasol and Bynum to play less minutes and be more rested for the playoff push. The Lakers are once again in perfect position to THREE-PEAT Again. Take note Nuggets this is why you’ll never win a championship and say goodbye to Carmelo.

  27. @22 Zach,

    While I will agree with you that the front office has focused on defensive minded players the last few seasons, I think you are selling them short on the offensive skills of the acquisitions.

    The Lakers main offensive weapon is the post-up game and they have plenty of it with Bynum, Gasol, and Kobe (and even Artest if a smaller guy is on him). I would argue (and most would agree) that Kobe and Gasol can not be defended in the post one-on-one. Bynum is close to being unguardable one-on-one as well. The only way to beat a team with the Lakers size and skill near the basket is to collapse around the paint and double team. Of course, doing so opens up the perimeter 3 point shot. This is where the Lakers have struggled.

    The Lakers were one of the worst 3pt shooting teams last season. Even in the finals, in game 1 the Celtics focused on single covering our post players and staying with Fisher and Artest behind the arc. It created openings for Kobe, Farmar, and Brown to drive all the way to the basket. The results were a very dominant Lakers win due to the overwhelming advantage inside and on the glass. The rest of the series the Celtics proceeded to give Fisher and Artest the 3pt shot and instead kept all 5 guys near the paint. Suddenly there were no driving lanes, double teams on every post-up, and the Lakers offense stalled. Artest and Fisher struggled to hit open shots (Fisher didn’t hit a 3 until game 7) and the Lakers lost 3 of the next 4 games!

    If the Lakers had shooters who can stretch a defense then the post-up games of Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum will dominate the opposition and driving lanes will also open up. That is where I think you are selling Mitch short.

    Last season’s only addition was Ron Artest. Ron Artest did not have a good year from behind the arc and yet he was our 2nd best 3pt shooter!!

    Steve Blake is easily our best 3pt shooter (most people don’t know but he is currently 44th in NBA history in 3pt FG% and is right behind Reggie Miller).

    Matt Barnes has hit roughly 34% of his attempts over the last 4 years and 34% would have made him 4th on the Lakers last year.

    The Lakers have done well to not only bring in solid defenders who are tough, but they also got guys who can hit an open shot and stretch the floor for our very dominant post game.

  28. Luke was a key to our team because he knew how to run our offense and he played with virtually no ego demands. With our bench this was a needed commodity. He was not a useless piece on our team.

    Going forward we may miss him less than we have if, and only if, the players we got attempt to fit into the triangle environment. Since they are veterans – not young players trying to make some kind of mark for themselves – there is a better chance they will try to adapt their games to our system. They also bring well developed personal strengths to our team. Phil is an expert at integrating individual personal strengths.

    However, saying Luke is now useless not only isn’t true, but glosses over his past contribution to the team.

  29. I was also gonna reply to post 22.Zach but @27 Walter did a great job explaining it. Come playoff time, most teams will protect the inside and dare the Lakers to beat them from outside, last year the 3pt shooting was missing and this year the three point shooting should be much improved.

  30. As part of a tribute to departing two-time champion Didier Mbenga, free agents and rookies just joining the team plan to have something special added to their new Laker jerseys. When preseason arrives, be on the watch for Matt Mbarnes, Steve Mblake, and Devin MEbanks. If signed, Shannon Mbrown has also agreed to the uniform change. Kobe Mbryant and Andrew Mbynum were not available for comment.

  31. @11 Swedishmeatballs

    Not sure about Bynum, but Kobe is expected to recover from knee surgery by training camp at the end of September, so there’s a likelihood Kobe will make a cameo with limited minutes. But then again, you just never know with knee surgeries.

    In trying to lace the downer with some sunshine and rainbows, the taco unit improved a bit this offseason, so it’ll be slightly more delicious even if it does come to a Gasol + taco unit vs Barcelona. And Kobe’s one tough cookie, so he’s more than likely to recover by October.

  32. @Zach 22 and Walter 27

    Mitch did a great job with what he had to work with and getting those guys to commit to us for less than their market values. Getting Blake and Barnes who hit 40 and 34 percent respectively, helps a team that regularly got in trouble with 2 of 16 and 3 of 24 three point shooting nights.

    In addition, you can never go wrong with defense. That is why an “AGED” Boston team was able to run through the playoffs the way that they did. A stiffling defense always trumps a potent offense. Just like in baseball when a dominant pitcher faces a loaded lineup. It takes them out of their comfort zones. Running shooters off of the three point line, filling passing lanes, and disrupting offenses prevents players from getting to their sweet spots. The Lakers are assembled to be a defense first unit with very good offensive capabilities.

    The one thing the Lakers can do better is to learn from Kobe and take and make the mid-range jumper. Shannon is learning and I belief Sasha can also. Those are open area shots that the Boston type strong side zone defenses always give you. That will neutralize packing the inside.

    Mitch has done a great job if the players mesh, which they should because the team turnover is not that great. Only two of the new players will see major minutes. All in all I’m looking forward to the new season.

  33. Craig- In my opinion you’re totally wrong on Luke, He’s has no value at all to the Lakers. Mitch made a MAJOR mistake signing him to that long term contract. His knowledge of the triangle and passing skill could have been useful, but the injuries(are part of the game) every season can’t come close to what he’s been paid in his career. BAD investment, I know we can’t foesee injuries, but he’s been 100% USELESS.

  34. Zphatt,
    Craig can be exactly right about Luke being a contributer whilst admitting that Luke’s contract is awful and ought never to have been offered. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

  35. Random question for anyone still following this thread:

    What numbers with Barnes & Ratliff wear this season? Obviously #22 and #42 are not really available in LA! Does anyone know?

  36. AusPhil
    Ratlift will wear 50
    Barnes will wear 9

  37. Right on Craig, even though the Lakers won with Luke in a limited role last season, his “pass first” mentality was a breath of fresh air at times on the second unit. I have a hard time calling a guy like Luke useless. That said, I would be a lousy GM, I know I would have 13 guys that I liked.

  38. Travis – well, I guess that puts the end to my dreams of a Nick Van Exel jersey retirement! Hehe.

    Thanks for that though. I figured since it was a pretty slow news period Lakers-wise, I’d try to gain more information about SOMETHING.

  39. I’m a celtic fan but i would like to give credit to the person who wrote this good article, summarizing all what teams have done. It’s short but very relevant. The articles at nba.com are beginning to bore me.

  40. Regarding Luke: I’m not very well versed on the circumstances surrounding his injured back. Being a guy who has dealt with back injuries, I know they are crippling and very hard to predict in terms of how to rehab. Its unfortunate because I do think that if healthy he’s a valuable guy to have around, especially with new faces who’ve never played in the triangle (Blake, Barnes, Ratliff).

    He knows where the ball needs to go in this system and was a big part in getting guys like Sasha, SB, and even LO to fit/figure into the system in years past, so I’d like to give him credit for that. Overpaid? At his healthiest, no. But he has rarely been healthy, so yes, but only because of circumstance. I’m not gonna pile onto the guy or on Mitch for that matter. Health issues happen. At least the effort has been there.

    Is there any timetable for Luke? Any career ramifications? From a salary cap standpoint, is there any likelihood the Lakers say he’s out for the season and collect insurance on his salary like the Rockets did with Yao last season? That could free up some dough to try to re-sign Shannon Brown.

  41. Travis,

    Luke is planning to rehab as much as possible before training camp and see how it goes from there. Kupchak seems to be leaning towards Luke not playing this season (and possibly even retiring) but says that Luke wants to play. I think they’re probably going to see what happens by around training camp time and then take it from there.

    Also, I think it’s a bit annoying that people are undermining Luke’s role on the team. Yes, he hasn’t performed on par with the size of his contract, but it it wasn’t for injuries who knows how much he may have improved by now. I think his cerebral approach to the court is a very good calming presence with the bench, and even with the starters at times. I think he was great at igniting a stagnant offense, as well as relishing his defensive assignments and playing balls to the wall with his limited athletic ability.

    He wasn’t the lynchpin of the championship runs, but I still think he was important and played a bigger role than Ammo, Daco and JPeezy. If he isn’t in uniform next season, I certainly hope he at least remains a staple on the bench in a teaching/advising/glorified spectator role.

  42. “…..should go a long way toward re-creating the bench mob that propelled the team to an unexpected title run in 2007-08.”

    Your coping mechanism is powerful kung fu.

    We don’t count Western Conference Title runs around here.