With training camp a month off, most of the talk still centers on the Lakers’ big four – Bryant, Gasol, Nash and Howard. There’s obvious reasons, these are the guys who win you ballgames, these are your stars. Nobody’s going to lead off the conversation with Jodie Meeks. Yet, at any given moment in a game, there will be players on the floor who are not the headliners, and at any given moment they can make a difference.
Phil Jackson was famous for letting guys figure it out on their own. Mike Brown’s wound just a little tighter – he threw subs in and reeled them back even faster last season. At the same time, the disparity of minutes was striking – Kobe, Pau and Andrew were heavily used, all season long. I’m hoping Brown uses his star power more prudently this time around, put a little in your pocket and save it for the playoffs. As for the fifth member of the starting five, I’ve got Metta lightly penciled in – abstract decision making aside, he comes to play and brings the necessary toughness.
Competing for short minutes will be nine or ten other guys. The combination of new players, new assistant coaches and some degree of Princeton offense, will likely bring us another round of musical chairs until it all gets sorted out. Here’s some bullet points on the bench:
Darius Morris signed his qualifying offer to return this summer. I’m not quite sure if it’s guaranteed for the whole season. My guess is that he’ll be very much on the bubble.
Andrew Goudelock still feels like an experiment in progress and like Morris, he’s got a pretty steep hill to climb.
Steve Blake hasn’t really lived up to expectations since signing with the Lakers but last season was an improvement over the year before. He’s probably got the edge when it comes to backup minutes at the point, and admits that he has something to prove.
Chris Duhon’s most productive season was 08/09 with the Knicks when he started 78 games and scored. 11.1 ppg. He wasn’t a fit with Orlando. My clearest memories of him are his early years with the Bulls, including a very decent rookie season.
Former Kentucky standout Jodie Meeks was a default starter under Doug Collins but his role here will be as a short minutes shooter. Whether it’ll work with the Lakers is debatable – Brown didn’t give his gunners a lot of rope last season. I’ll say this, Meeks fills a need and the Lakers went after him pretty hard.
Christian Eyenga runs the floor, throws down some monster dunks, and the coaches like him. He’ll get a look this season but there won’t be a lot of available minutes. I’ve been reminded that Eyenga is no longer a Laker. As I’ve noted several times, my brain is still foggy after getting Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the same off-season. It’s all still a giddy haze.
When Devin Ebanks entered (restricted) free agency, his agent said he was looking for more playing time. He’s at a crossroads in his young career – there’s obvious potential but he needs some room to grow. I’m not sure how that works with this star-driven lineup but it’ll be interesting to watch. He’s back for a one-year deal.
Antawn Jamison figures to fill the sixth man role this season. He’s been in the league a long time but he’s still putting up numbers. He’s never been known as a defensive stopper but he’ll get after it on the boards now and then – two years ago he grabbed 23 rebounds against the Knicks. He’s a great pickup at the veteran minimum salary.
Earl Clark is a utility big man who came in the Orlando trade. Clark flirted with free agency earlier in the summer. It’s doubtful that he’ll get much playing time here.
Jordan Hill didn’t get off the bench until late in the season last year but he made a difference with energy and raw athleticism. He’s by no means a finished product but he’ll see some minutes at the center position, especially in the early part of the season.
And then, the rookies, Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre. If you’ve been counting, there isn’t room for both of them on the roster and to be honest, there probably isn’t room for even one, given the fact that Mitch prefers to keep the 15th slot open. I liked Sacre’s court hustle and attitude during summer league and at any rate, they’ll be in camp and they’ll give it a shot.
This above is by no means the definitive list. If I’ve left somebody out, post it here. If Matt Barnes has finally dealt with the tentacles of the law, post it here. If Slava Medvedenko makes his long lost return, I’m buying rounds all night long. Otherwise, let’s hear how you see the roster shaping up – sub patterns, rotations, weaknesses and strengths and any needs that haven’t yet been filled.
– Dave Murphy