The Lakers' second unit and the big question about offense
Everyone who follows the NBA understands how important the second unit is to not only winning games but winning championships. The moves the Lakers made in the offseason certainly filled their needs -- a proven point guard in Steve Blake to team with high-flying guard Shannon Brown, providing a formidable long-range shooter and an athletic slasher. The departed Jordan Farmar was a fine second-unit point guard, but I think Lakers fans will be pleased with Blake's efficiency, and I expect Brown to continue to improve.
Newly acquired Matt Barnes will team in the front court with Lamar Odom, giving the Lakers two athletic and versatile performers. Barnes scores in a variety of ways, mainly via cuts to the basket and going to the offensive glass. He's not a bad spot-up shooter either. Odom is always a key cog and tends to perform better when he's moved into the starting lineup for an injured player, but he must be the second unit's leader and provide scoring punch for the Lakers to see success.
Those four will have to shoulder the burden because the other reserves will come from a pool of two rookie draft picks -- small forward Devin Ebanks and power forward Derrick Caracter -- and three veterans who return with big question marks: inconsistent guard Sasha Vujacic, recently oft-injured forward Luke Walton and center Theo Ratliff, a 37-year-old who is a defensive stopper and little else.
I don't think Walton is going to return to form in the near future. And Vujacic, for all his frenetic energy, has lost his shooting touch when it counts. Rookies? Who was the last rookie you remember Coach Phil Jackson relying on to pile up points? Caracter might get some opportunities because through injuries and foul trouble he could get some decent minutes.
It's really going to be about Blake, Odom, Barnes and Brown -- or what I now deem the BOBB effect. As they ebb and flow, so will churn the Lakers' fortunes. They'll get major minutes, and they'll need to produce. If they don't, look for a 15th man to be signed and some players to be moved, because you can't ask the starting five to score 90% of your points
Photos: Steve Blake (top) is familiar with Staples Center, having spent part of last season with the Clippers, while Matt Barnes (bottom) is a former UCLA star. Credits: David Zalubowski and Nick Ut / Associated Press