Conserving Energy

Phillip Barnett —  August 15, 2010

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (C) greets his teammates Pau Gasol (16), Jordan Farmar (1), and Sasha Vujacic(18) as they made their way to the bench during Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Los Angeles, California, June 15, 2010 .   REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

With the recent signings of Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks, the Lakers roster should be officially set. As we know, the Lakers are going into next season as the two-time defending champions. Their goal will be, as it always is, to bring home the Larry O’ Brien Trophy, but during the course of the season, the Lakers will set a series of miniature goals to help them reach the ultimate goal. One of those miniature goals will be to reduce the minutes of the Lakers’ starters. Kobe Bryant will be entering his 15th season as a Laker, Andrew Bynum has been injury prone, Derek Fisher is receiving AARP magazines in the mail and Ron Artest was one of the most beat up Lakers at the end of last season. Only Pau Gasol is heading into the three-peat season looking like he can take on as many or more minutes than last year as he will be taking his first summer away from international play in quite some time – but even with a set of fresher legs, it would be nice if the Lakers can win games with Gasol playing fewer minutes. If the Lakers can reduce the minutes of the starting unit, it not only keeps them fresh for the post-season, but it also means that the Lakers reserves are getting more meaningful minutes during the regular season. Considering the learning curve of the triangle offense and the fact that there are five new additions to the Lakers roster, more minutes for those guys will do wonders come the playoffs.

So how does Phil Jackson slash minutes from the starting unit? Mitch Kupchak has already given Jackson a head start with improving on a roster that just won its second straight NBA title. Up top, the Lakers feature Fish, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown. On the wings the Lakers can play any combination of Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton. Up front, they have Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and newly acquired Theo Ratliff. Phil is just going to have to work out a steady rotation that allows a more equal distribution of minutes.

To start games, the Lakers will throw out a Fisher-Bryant-Artest-Gasol-Bynum lineup. A trend that we’ve seen from Phil Jackson is him letting Kobe and Pau play 10-12 minutes in the first quarter while giving Bynum and Fisher early breathers. What this has done in the past is forced the Lakers to play without both Kobe and Pau to start second quarters. More often than not, the Lakers would have the lead with Kobe/Pau on the floor only to watch that lead get chipped away. Kobe and/or would have to come back into the game much earlier than Phil would have liked, adding to their respective minutes logged.

To combat this problem, Phil can move Kobe to the bench with Fisher and Bynum, bringing in Blake, LO and Barnes. Now, to end the first quarter, we’re looking at a lineup that features a Blake-Barnes-Artest-Odom-Gasol lineup. They may lose a bit of scoring with this lineup, but they really don’t lose anything defensively. Then, to start the second quarter, Jackson can keep Barnes and Odom on the floor, bring in Shannon Brown and bring back any two the starting trio (Fisher, Kobe, Bynum) that left earlier, giving Jackson a Fisher-Kobe/Brown-Barnes-Odom-Bynum lineup to start the second. This keeps either Kobe or Gasol on the floor for the majority of, if not all of the first half. Gasol will be able to take his breather for the first six minutes of the second quarter, and come back in to close out the half strong.

It would be ideal to have Shannon Brown starting the second instead of Kobe, and have Kobe come in for Barnes a few minutes into the quarter. This will have Fisher playing 12-15 first half minutes, Kobe playing 15-18, Artest playing 15-18, Gasol 15-18 and Bynum playing 12-15. Of course, these things never work out exactly as planned, but this lays a blueprint for how the Lakers can attack this issue. Keeping these guys under 20 minutes not only addresses their collective MPG problems, but it also allows the starting unit to have fresher legs to close out fourth quarters or better – open up the second half strong enough that the reserves get to close out games. I know that it’s extremely early, and roles haven’t been defined yet, but it’s never too early to talk about ways to win and keep players healthy. Do you guys have any ideas on how the Lakers can reduce minutes? Share them in the comments.

Phillip Barnett


to Conserving Energy

  1. I welcome a roster which looks to be the deepest in the league. I think a big man rotation with Bynum-Gasol-Odom is generally good enough, but this is bolstered by the veteran presence of Mr Ratliff. While ideally he would only be used as injury cover, I wouldn’t mind seeing him get spells every few games just to keep one of the Lakers biggest strengths fresh. The problems the team had last year with injuries to bigs has been well documented so I will not go into too much detail about that. I may be alone here but I wouldn’t mind seeing a reserve lineup of Vujacic at the 1, Barnes at the 2 and Ron-Ron at the 3 to use as a defensive and size matchup against certain teams. Fisher plays solid D generally, but I prefer the agressiveness sometimes of a faster and longer Sasha, and I think Fisher needs a lot of bench time to rest for the playoffs. While I understand Blake is an unselfish, tidy shooter I am not sold on his defence until I see it myself. As for resting Kobe I think that is priority 1a. Maybe a mix of Shannon-Sasha-Barnes to spell him at different times. The key is getting Bryant, Bynum and Gasol enough rest to have them ready to unleash a fury in the playoffs, while winning enough games to have HCA. It goes without saying though not a single coach could be better at handling these issues with this team than the greatest NBA coach of all time.


  2. @Phillip The Lakers have 14 players at their roster right now. Who do you think would be the ideal 12 guys that would suit up for every game?Would PJ utilize all his players in most nights?


  3. Pau, Drew and Odom play no more than 32 min, possibly less in blowouts, where we siphon those minutes off to Ratliff/Character/Ebanks if possible.

    Keep Ron to 30 min, with Barnes taking the remaining 18 minutes

    Fish and Blake to share the load at PG – keeping Fish at 24 min or less.

    That leaves SG – Ideally, we would have Kobe at 32 min and split the remaining 16 between ShanWow and Sasha. But the dropoff in talent is so huge there, its almost wishful thinking…


  4. Now if we were to get Rudy (okay, okay, I know its a pipe dream):

    PF, C – Pau, Drew, Odom – 32 min each

    SG, PG – Kobe, Rudy (32 min), Blake, Fish (16 min)

    SF – Ron (30 min), Barnes (18 min)

    Now, THAT would be one helluva rotation!


  5. I understand bynum and fish need less minutes but if Kobe is really going for MVP I don’t think Phil will cut Kobes minutes too much. Barnes will need to get minutes behind artest and maybe a few at the 2 behind Kobe. That’s just my thought on the matter


  6. A few points pertaining to the mins:


    Phil has to reduce Kobe’s mpg. Last season Kobe avg’d 38.8 mpg, an INCREASE over the previous season (’08-’09) when Kobe avg’d 36.1 mpg. I’d love Kobe to play no more than 34-35 mpg. Imagine how much more effective he’d be come post-season. Math tells me that would be the equivalent of 8 fewer game over the season or almost a tenth of the season ( 38.8 mpg -34 mpg = 4.8 mpg x 80 games = 384 mins divided by 48 mins = 8 games). Btw, Kobe’s PER of 21.9 was his LOWEST in 10 years. Sure he was injured, but the extra mins were a factor also. He’ll be starting his 15th season folks, p-a-c-e, should be Phil’s word of the year for Kobe.


    If 31 yr old Blake can’t beat out 36 yr old Fisher for the majority of minutes by the All-Star break, did the Laker’s solve their biggest issue from last season: pg play?


  7. PJ was, in my memory, never into conserving minutes and managing them over the course of the season. He probably has all the intentions of course, but always couldn’t seem to quite act on it.

    Add to that you have a star who just is way antsy while on the bench, and I don’t see Kobe’s minutes going below the 35 mark. Honestly, I’d be overjoyed if he goes below 36 since I don’t see it happening.

    Gasol will probably be asked to play 36+ as well, and the only places I see minutes being cut is where we have had some suprlus minutes anyway – at SF and at PG.

    Also, for our team, conserving energy always meant going half-ball and spending less energy over 38 minutes, rather than going all out for 20 minutes and resting.

    I am not really sure which is better for conserving energy, although the latter definitely is better for us to develop our bench. Still, if players think ‘coasting’ for 38 minutes is better for them than playing all out for 25~30 and sitting out, more power to them…


  8. The best way to manage the starters minutes is the play of the bench.The reason #24’s minutes were down 2 years ago compared to last year was the second unit was playing at its best, therefore eliminating the need for Gasol or Kobe to have to come in earlier than planned.

    If Blake and Barnes can come in and solidify the second unit(which I think they will) all is good in LaLa land.


  9. I think the lakers are going to go with a 10 man rotation, in general.

    Pau(32), Drew(25), Lamar(32), DC(7)
    Kobe(32), Ron(32), Barnes(25)
    Fish(20), Blake(20), Brown (15)

    I think Blake, Barnes, and Brown (the Killer Bs©) are nice combination of smarts, tenacity, and athleticism. I don’t think they’re going to force turnovers left and right, but just play pesky defense, make an ally of the shotclock, and force bad shots. On O, I hope they can allow for the offense to flow through our big men.

    Situationally, I think Caracter will be able to match up with thin, lanky 4s or stocky, undersized brutes like Craig Smith. Defensively, I’m not confident about his ability to be a help defender, so maybe his minutes get curtailed if there’s a dynamic perimeter player on the other side.

    My hope is the Laker bench can outproduce their counterparts, and finish teams off at the end of the 3rd. It’s going to be a process, but they have talent to do it.


  10. I think Kobe and Fisher should go to the bench together and Fisher should not return unless Kobe is already back in the game.

    The reason is that Fisher when he plays without Kobe does not dump the ball into Gasol/Bynum enough. So I think he needs to play with another perimeter threat otherwise he will be jacking up shots at the expense our bigs.

    I have no illusions about Brown being able to dump the ball into our Bigs but unless we want to play both Blake and Fisher at the same time, I would rather make sure that Blake and not Fisher is out there playing with either Gasol and/or Bynum when Kobe is not on the court.


  11. What I’m really looking forward to is Bynum becoming the focal point of the second unit. Now he can become more aggressive, show his arsenal of moves around the basket, then kicking it out to the shooters (Blake, Barnes, Brown, Sasha). we could not see this scenario the past few seasons as Farmar was trying to be the focal point, trying to look for “the big play” often wasting away the shot clock. I believe we will see an even more productive Andrew Bynum next season


  12. @jeff I think that regular season MVP is a curse, if my memory serves me right, for the past 10 seasons only 2 season MVP won the championship and those two were Shaq and Tim Duncan.


  13. The drop off with Kobe not in the game may not be as bad as you think. Remember last year the team almost went on a 5 game win streak without the Black Mamba. The reason? They played within the triangle. If they do the same this coming year with the more capable individuals, the Lakers should be fine.

    Chibi seems about right though Sasha will get some burn and so will DC to a lesser extent. Theo has to play to learn the system and he may be more important than DC getting time. That’s why there is a development league.

    Pau(32), Drew(25),
    Lamar(32), Theo(7),

    Kobe(32), Ron(30),
    Barnes(20), Brown(12), Sasha (2),

    Fish(20), Blake(20), Brown (3), Sasha(5)


  14. Here’s my problem with the NBA. Why do coaches have a specific rotation set in stone with minutes assigned before the game actually occurs? Yes, there should be a starting lineup but from that moment on you should just use whoever is hot.

    Let’s say that Artest starts the game cold, not producing and Barnes comes in red hot. Why not give 32 mins to Barnes and 16 minutes to Artest that night? That wouldn’t mean that Artest lost his starting spot, he just had a bad night while Barnes had a good one. It happens.

    By doing that Phil would motivate all bench players, as they knew they could be called upon to supply hevay minutes when he asked. This would also allow for shorter game rotations (which are better to keep the flow of the game) and get some rest to everyone.

    But this is a pipe dream. NBA coaches don’t do that (but they should)


  15. Blake-Barnes-Artest-Odom-Gasol – I don’t think they’ll ever be together on the court. Not even Odom-Bynum-Gasol played together, so I don’t see this one as a possibility. Brown will get the task of scoring points, and Vujacic to sink the 3s towards the beginning and end of quarters. Vujacic-Brown cost more than Fisher-Blake, so we’ll be looking to get a lot more than usual from them. Artest can’t play as a SG. His job is to defend, the rest (Triangle Offence) he still has to learn.

    + I would allow Ebanks and Caracter to play whenever we’re winning by a comfortable margin.


  16. I think vs. lesser opponents, it would be wise to give bench guys more run and rest starters. Here’s how I see it:

    Vs. Better Teams – 9 man rotation

    PG. Derek Fisher (24) / Steve Blake (24)
    SG. Kobe Bryant (36) / Shannon Brown (12)
    SF. Ron Artest (30) / Matt Barnes (18)
    PF. Pau Gasol (18) / Lamar Odom (30)
    C. Andrew Bynum (30) / Pau Gasol (18)

    Vs. Weaker Teams or on Back-To-Backs

    PG. Derek Fisher (18) / Steve Blake (24) / Sasha Vujacic (6)
    SG. Kobe Bryant (28) / Shannon Brown (20)
    SF. Ron Artest (20) / Matt Barnes (20) / Devin Ebanks (8)
    PF. Pau Gasol (14) / Lamar Odom (26) / Derrick Caracter (8)
    C. Andrew Bynum (28) / Pau Gasol (14) / Theo Ratliff (6)

    Playoff minutes is a crap shoot to call at this time. But probably a 9 man rotation, at least until games are decided.


  17. the hope is that the starters blow out the opposing team… and the bench maintains or increase the lead… and let the draftees close the games – learning the triangle…

    imagine if we could close a game with: Sasha, Brown, Ebanks, Carracter, and Theo… for at least the 5 minutes.


  18. my five cents:

    Kobe should play at least around 35-40 mins for basketball game watchability and his player well being sake.Any less would drastically diminish his/Lakers’ output.I believe barring injuries he is well conditioned to do so.

    thank you.


  19. For the past three years, the Lakers have been designed as a Swiss Army knife style team–but not all the blades have worked the way they were intended.

    In fact, some blades sometimes didn’t open at all, damaged or dulled by overuse or misuse. Others didn’t work the way they were supposed to, or just weren’t the right tool at the right time.

    Even though slightly retooled versions of the same knife have gotten the job done for the past 2 (and almost 3) years, the new version has a few more blades.

    Last year, as few as 8 of the blades were frequently used. By the end of the season nearly all of those 8 blades were worn and dull–some could barely open at all–many needed emergency inseason repair and/or sharpening to be used at all–while some of the others were hopelessly damaged or just couldn’t do the job as intended.

    The current “Swiss army” team will soon be back from the factory, retooled and restored, with fourteen blades and one empty slot. It remains to be seen how well the new blades do the job, but this purple and gold knife seems to afford more versatile ways to get the job done–with less dulling and/or damage of the favorite blades.

    It won’t be until October that we will begin to find out.


  20. Home court advantage will be key this year, just as we saw in Game 7. If anything, more so than previous seasons, that will dictate the minutes that our starters play.

    Simplistically speaking, our starters as a collective unit averaged more minutes than 08-09 because put simply, our bench was horrible. That problem has been rectified. I suppose the cHEAT will try to run up the score early and sit their starters. That may be the Lakers’ best plan to conserve minutes. I love our new 2nd unit, and I hope that even Ebanks and Caracter get some decent playing time.


  21. Renato Afonso,
    There are two coaching schools of thought: 1) ride the hot hand and 2) maintain predictability.

    You criticize Phil being a #2 coach. His reasoning is that players have both physical and psychological needs. By being predictable, Phil allows the players to get comfortable their roll, how they approach that role, and the energy they need to bring.

    Phil does experiment with his combinations and timings – a great deal in the early season and less so as the season ends. He leaves the players alone on the floor – instead of constantly directing the players like a lot of coaches. He wants the players to learn their rolls so well they are spending their court time studying what is happening in the game, instead of what they are supposed to do. That is the essence of the triangle system. The fact that other coaches don’t follow this procedure is why the triangle so often fails with other coaches.


  22. Props to Philip for a well-thought gameplan. May I add a few cents of my own thoughts in there as well.

    Starters are pre-determined. I think Fish asked of the starting position before re-signing with us thereby making him the defacto starter at point. But in saying that, I think the Lakers plan 1a in the offseason was to secure a better PG, hopefully one that they could pass the torch to later on. This is where Steve Blake fits perfectly. Having said that, 1b would be securing Fish as the emotional leader of the team. Check and Check.

    I believe these 2 will be splitting minutes at the point. Early on the season, Fish will get his burn as Blake learns his role. As the season progresses, Blake earns more minutes as we try to preserve Fish.

    Its safe to say then that Fish and Blake split the minutes right in the middle. 24 and 24. If by any weird circumstance that we need another one, this is the game that Shannon Brown eats into PG minutes.

    The PF/C position is tricky. We don’t want Gasol exposed too much at center but we also know the offense flows so much better with him at the pinnacle and w/ Odom as the PF. That said, Theo only gets some burn for like 5 minutes per game and maybe more early on as Andrew Bynum recuperates from his surgery.

    Kobe plays 36 mpg but I peg him to have more rests this year courtesy of blowouts. Hopefully, around 12 or more blowout games allow him to log in about 32mpg (saving him 4 mpg). Artest gets the burn with 30 mins while Matt Barnes is a very capable replacement whose 18-21 minutes per game gives the Lakers a very formidable 8-man rotation.


  23. It’s interesting to take a look at the numbers at, to see what the actual differences are between last years Lakers and Celtics in terms of minutes. The conventional wisdom is that they rested their players, and sacrificed wins in order to save themselves for the playoffs, whereas we rode our guys into the ground. Here are the minutes for the starters, with the Lakers on the left:
    PG: 27-37
    SG: 39-35
    SF: 34-34
    PF: 37-30
    C: 30-28
    Then, we had Odom at 32, And Brown and Farmar at 21 and 18, with noone else above 9. They had Rasheed with 23, then 5 guys between 15-18.

    To some degree, it looks like we will still be more top-heavy. Their minutes implies that they went 11 deep during the course of the season (although some of it was injury-related). While we can all easily envision Odom, Blake, Barnes, and Brown going for more than 15 minutes per, unless Walton miraculously recovers or Ratliff discovers the fountain of youth, it really does look like a 9 man rotation.

    One last note is that it’s easier to see how Kobe and Fish will get their minutes reduced, but a bit harder to see how Pau’s are going to go down, unless, of course, all of the bigs stay completely healthy for the whole year…


  24. quetzpalin,
    Pau gets his minutes reduced because we have Ratliff. Where Pau’s extra minutes come from is due to injury to Bynum. Now Ratliff can increase his minutes instead of having to increase Pau’s minutes – keeping Pau at a more consistent level throughout the year.


  25. Based off how he’s handled rotations and minutes in the past, I bet Phil would love to keep Kobe’s minutes down. In past seasons, Phil would sub Kobe out at the 10 minute mark of the first quarter and not bring him back in until the 8-9 minute mark of the 2nd (giving him a 5 minute game clock rest and even longer “real” time rest due to the Q break, time outs, etc). However, due to the inconsitency of the back court and no legitimate back up SF, Phil really couldn’t give Kobe that same breather. This season with Barnes in the mix and Blake being a steadier PG that can run the offense, Kobe should be given more rest as he won’t have to be the guy that ensures the offense is still productive (Blake and a greater commitment to the big men should ensure the O still goes strong).

    As for Pau, I really don’t see his minutes dropping too much. He’s going to play back up C. Phil loves him in the hub of the Triangle and I envision seing a fair amount of the Blake/WOW/Barnes/LO/Pau line up in the late 1st/early2nd period. Remember too, Phil likes to push Pau throughout the regular season because Gasol is a player that does well when conditioned for a heavy load by the time the playoffs come. If Pau is in the 38 minute range, I think it’s a good amount for him as his game is not based off physicallity and he can play in a manner that is not *as* physically taxing as, say, Bynum’s minutes are. Pau can float between the high and low post in any line up while still being tremendously effective. I guess what I’m also saying is that I don’t expect Ratliff to play many more minutes than Mbenga has over the past couple of years. And if Bynum is healthy for the majority of next season (knock on wood), I think Ratliff only plays in blowouts or if foul trouble means that both Pau/Bynum have to sit.


  26. quetzpalin,

    Thanks for posting those minutes. I disagree with you about Luke Walton. I think that even if he does fully recover, he’s not going crack the designed rotation. I see him playing (like Ratliff, Caracter, and Ebanks) only in blowouts, back-to-backs, and covering for injuries and foul trouble. That does allow for SOME playing time, but I don’t see him being a “rotation” guy. Not with Artest and Barnes at his position. Just not enough minutes to go around. So even if, by the miracle full recovery that we all hope happens, Luke is able to play pain free, he’s basically not GOOD enough to crack that main rotation.


  27. @9) Chibi- I’m loving the ‘Killer Bs’! Gives our bench an identity.


  28. @27 & @9

    What if they moved bynum to the bench and odom to start with pau as center. our bench would be all B’s!!

    Then we would really be the bench of killer b’s

    Bynum, Blake, Barnes, and Brown