Phil Jackson's nickname for the bench: Renegades
It's only two games into the regular season, and Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has already assigned the team's bench a nickname. They're "Renegades."
"I gave it to them," Jackson said Saturday after practice at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo. "They're getting a sense of how to play together."
That includes Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes, a trio KCAL-9's Stu Lantz and a few L.A. Times Lakers blog readers described as "Killer B's." Beyond this settling a long debate or perhaps furthering it within this corner of the blogosphere, it's not so much important what nickname Jackson has assigned the reserves so much as that his willingness to do it so early in the season shows his satisfaction with the team's overall play. Jackson limited Saturday's practice solely to the reserves, a unit he says will feature more unspecified playing time from Devin Ebanks and Sasha Vujacic possibly as early as Sunday against the Golden State Warriors.
Dictionary.com defines "renegade" as a "person who deserts a party or cause for another," hardly a quality trait you'd want to have in a teammate. But the Lakers see it differently.
"When you think of renegade, you think of someone who's almost mean, but going out there and getting the job done," Brown said. "They're fierce. They don't play many games, but they're close knit together. They won't let nobody mess with them."
The reactions among the bench struck a perfect balance between amusement ("I'm liking all these names," said Brown) and professionalism ("We're not going to worry about nicknames," Blake said. We're just going to go out there and keep doing what we're doing").
The bench so far has been doing the right things. In the Lakers' 112-110 season-opening victory Tuesday against the Houston Rockets, Blake hit the game-winning three-pointer and shut off Aaron Brooks in the lane on the final play. Meanwhile, Brown provided an energy boost in both season opener and in the Lakers' 114-106 victory Friday over the Phoenix Suns, showing a solid mid-range game and ability to run the break. And Barnes has scrapped on the boards as well as going three-of-four from three-point range against the Suns.
I noted before how the bench's teamwork mentality will surely pay dividends this season, and a scene in the locker room before the Suns game fully illustrated why. Barnes recalled seeing Ron Artest's ring brought a wave of emotions.
"Seeing that ring for the first time, I'm happy for those guys but I'm definitely jealous," Barnes said. "It makes me hungrier to get my own. I'm thinking about how it's going to feel to get my own."
For now, the Lakers' bench can be comforted to know they've at least earned enough respect for a nickname. They realize they've earned it.
"Renegades are people that are out there reckless and taking care of business," Barnes added. "Killer B's is self explanatory. It's us three taking care of business and having fun."
Brown suggested there should be a poll on this topic, so I told him I'd be more than willing to oblige and then report the results. Feel free to vote in some of the polls below after the jump. Of course, if you don't like these nicknames, pitch a few others and I'll see if it resonates with the bench.