Lakers: One Trouble Spot Ahead


The T-shirts that the fans received read: A New Journey, Same Goal.

The ceremony celebrating last year’s journey went off without a hitch. The game against the Clippers got the new journey off on the right foot, with a 99-92 win.

But if there is one kink the Lakers’ armor, a pitfall on the journey to another NBA Championship, look no further than the Lakers’ bench.

The danger sign that lurks ahead has one word written on it: “Inconsistency.”

The Lakers’ bench had a fine preseason up until their last game against Denver. The subs played most of the game so coach Phil Jackson could give his starters a rest.

Offensively, the bench did very well, even though Denver blew out the Lakers. The subs scored 67 points to go along with 15 assists.

But defensively, they allowed the Nuggets’ bench to score 71 points and grab 22 rebounds compared to only 16 rebounds for the Lakers’ subs.

They also gave up a ton of points to the Denver starters, which accounted for the blowout.

In the opener at the Staples Center last night, the Lakers bench broke down at both ends of the court. They were vastly outplayed and outscored by the Clippers’ bench 29-9. They were out-rebounded 15-7.

And get this: The Lakers’ bench had exactly zero assists while the Clippers’ subs had seven. That’s right—zero.

If that doesn’t spell trouble for the Lakers, I don’t know what does.

The fact that Lamar Odom started in place of Pau Gasol meant that the bench did not have his statistics to add to their totals. Nevertheless, the subs did not acquit themselves very well, to say the least.

Instead of being able to rest his starters, Jackson was forced to put them in early in the fourth quarter to ensure the seven-point victory.

Since the Lakers do not play again until Friday night, there’s plenty of time to rest. What happens once the long grind of the 82-game season really kicks in? What happens to all those back-to-backs on the road?

I wouldn’t be too worried about the frontcourt once Gasol returns. Lamar Odom can come in off the bench to spell Gasol or move Gasol over to center and give Andrew Bynum a rest.

It is the backcourt is where the starters really need some relief. Kobe Bryant and especially Derek Fisher need to stay as fresh as possible, but last year Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic were terribly inconsistent. When they came into a game, Laker opponents were able to cut into the lead.

Farmar at least played some defense, but Vujacic rarely did. In fact, the Lakers could count on Vujacic to commit a foul only seconds after he entered a game.

That has got to change if the Lakers are to repeat as NBA Champions.

Shannon Brown, traded from Charlotte at mid-season last year, had his moments. Although he has become a crowd favorite with his leaping dunks, he too has been inconsistent, especially on defense.

Watching Farmar or Brown play the Clippers’ Eric Gordon and Denver’s Ty Lawson was no contest. All three reserve guards need to work extra hard on that aspect of their game.

That also applies to the two reserve small forwards, Luke Walton and Josh Powell. Defensively, Powell is considerably ahead of Walton who had the worst plus/minus of all the Lakers in last night’s opener. Walton was a negative eight in the very short time he was in the game (3:22).

Fortunately, the season is just starting, and the Lakers bench has time to turn their performance around. If not, the new journey may wind up making a dangerous U-turn.