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Lamenting the Lakers' lost reserves from the 2010 NBA title team points to 20/20 hindsight

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Throughout each exit interview, every Laker dropped a morsel suggesting the missing piece to the championship puzzle.

Coach Phil Jackson lamented the team's lack of  speed. Center Andrew Bynum wished the team practiced with more intensity. And nearly everyone acknowledged in some form that the heavy basketball mileage accumulated through three consecutive NBA Finals appearances finally caught up to them. 

Interestingly enough, some of the Lakers from the 2010 championship team fit that description before parting ways. Jordan Farmar, who accepted a three-year, $12-million offer with the New Jersey Nets, provided plenty of speed as a backup point guard. Sasha Vujacic, whom the Lakers traded to the New Jersey Nets for Joe Smith, earned a reputation for playing with full intensity in practice and in games. DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell provided enough minutes to keep the Lakers' front line fresh, but the Lakers' failure to re-sign them resulted in Mbenga and Powell joining the New Orleans Hornets and Atlanta Hawks, respectively. 

The Lakers could have used all those missing ingredients, but fans shouldn't criticize Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak for replacing that bench with a veteran-laden reserve unit. Kupchak hardly expressed much satisfaction with the team's bench, citing Steve Blake's feeling uncomfortable on the floor, Matt Barnes' lateral meniscus tear limiting him and Theo Ratliff's arthroscopic surgery on his left knee happening only eight games into the season. But no one could've anticipated the worst-case scenario involving the newly signed players to unfold.

Sure, I found it risky for the Lakers to sign a 37-year-old Ratliff because of the uncertainty about how long he would last. Sure, I found it a little odd that little effort was made to give Smith a role to play  after lamenting the team's lack of support in helping Pau Gasol absorb Andrew Bynum's minutes while Bynum recovered from offseason surgery. And sure, the Lakers at some point are going to have to inject youth into the team to make the transition seamless when the contracts of Kobe Bryant (2013-14), Gasol (2013-14), Ron Artest (2013-14), Lamar Odom (2012-13) and Derek Fisher (2012-13) run out. But criticizing Lakers' front-office decisions during the 2010 offseason only points to 20/20 hindsight.

43088448

Remember why the Lakers didn't keep these players in the first place.

Farmar often lamented during his four-year tenure with the Lakers his lack of playing time, how the triangle offense limited his game and how there never seemed to be enough opportunities for him to succeed. Much of Farmar's inconsistency with the Lakers pointed more to his poor decision-making and poor effort on defense than limited opportunities. Most of Farmar's impressive performances with the Lakers happened in waves, making it hard to predict whether more chances would have resulted in a steady line graph or just more peaks and valleys.

Vujacic made shots all the time in practice and even helped the Lakers secure the 2010 NBA title with two clutch free throws in Game 7 of the Finals. But Vujacic showed no signs of progressing since posting an impressive 8.8 points on 45.4% shooting in the 2007-08 season. The clutch shots he made in practice hardly translated into games, where he always wanted to jam 20 minutes worth of production into a five-minute span. His hustle in practice sparked more annoyance on the court where his emotions altered his focus and alienated his teammates. And his hunger for the game -- an ingredient that seemed mostly missing -- was inappropriately channeled into fretting over small stuff, leading into arguments with coaches and teammates. 

Mbenga provided enough hustle and athleticism to make  Jackson comfortable enough to give Gasol and Bynum a breather. But he wanted a larger role that the Lakers couldn't guarantee, considering the team's frontline depth. Powell's work ethic and positive attitude resonated so well within the Lakers locker room that he became a close friend of Bryant. But rarely did any of those qualities actually resonate in game situations. 

That's why plenty of Laker fans felt giddy with the team's off-season movement last year. Signing Blake to a four-year, $16-million deal looked like the answer to shortening Fisher's minutes, providing the team some necessary outside shooting and having ensuring strong ball movement within the offense. Signing Matt Barnes to a two-year, $3.77 million deal looked like the answer to the add onto the toughness Artest brought and the need to have a legitimate backup who can produce garbage points and hustle plays. And signing Ratliff to a one-year, $1.35-million deal seemed to be the answer in finding a defensive stalwart content with any role thrown his way.

While the Lakers' previously young bench seemed more fixated on individual production than actually playing within the team concept, the more veteran bench players appeared more than willing to sacrifice their roles for a shot at their first ring. But that trade-off backfired. Blake's shooting and overall play fizzled out after a strong first month. Barnes'  surgery on his right knee took away his aggressive knack for cutting into the lane and making easy baskets. And Ratliff provided next to nothing  when he was needed to provide five to eight minutes during Bynum's rehab to prevent Gasol from falling to fatigue.

There's no doubt the Lakers plan to fix those problems during the current offseason. The language from both Kupchak and Jerry Buss about making "tweaks" to the team's roster surely points to the bench since the team is locked into long-term contracts with the core lineup. But that doesn't mean the Lakers should regret allowing those other reserves to leave.  

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: New Laker draft pick Jordan Farmar and General Manager Mitch Kupchak pose for photos during a press conference. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / June 29, 2006

Photo: Lakers center DJ Mbenga provided plenty of athleticism, but didn't have much to offer on offense. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / April 23, 2008

 
Comments () | Archives (38)

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Testing one two.

Agreed, people forgot how the old Farmar-Sasha bench regularly blew leads in 09-10. The Lakers won 2 rings in spite of them, not because of them.

I heard Vancouver rioted last night, but I finally saw the pics... Man, LAs got nothing on these guys... Stupid & crazy!

Scott - You're completely right. The problem was that everything caught up to them this year. In other years, they could absorb a bad bench, inconsistent point guard play because Kobe played well and their bigs and Fisher made clutch shots. None of that was existent during the postseason

Lamenting the Lakers' lost reserves from the 2010 NBA title team points to 20/20 hindsight

---

Fair enough.

Fickle fair-weather fan: When commenting earlier and elsewhere about Jordan/Sasha v. Steve/Matt, I was particularly unfair to Barnes, not realizing the lingering extent of his injury-recovery. I was also on the Blake bandwagon last summer, expecting more than he may have been capable of delivering.

But I don't think it's hindsight to concede certain measurable, immutable facts: Blake/Barnes in their first season as Lakers contributed less to LAL's postseason than Farmar/Vujagic did, on average, in postseasons prior.

"Vujagic" = Vujacic

latopia - I completely agree. I'm just saying to suggest that the Lakers were better off keeping those players however are unfounded. To some degree, the Lakers bench problems were exposed more this season because the team overall wasn't as good as last year

[T]he Lakers bench problems were exposed more this season because the team overall wasn't as good as last year..

---

YUP. And Jordan/Sasha did log up/down postseaons, that's why I mentioned "on average." I also agree the criticism is hardly fair after only *one* season. Barnes' injury is an automatic I-incomplete. Plus, even the smartest ballers usually need a full season within the triangle to play at fullspeed.

Wow, I'm almost glad that I had to spend the entire day packing. It was brutal in here earlier.

As for those who are newish to this site and feel like they need to bash Justa(Justanothermambafan) for any reason, please understand that she deserves MUCH more respect than that. Not because she's a woman, but because she is a very intelligent Lakerholic who knows her stuff and is very fun to interact with.

Since I've been here, a mere two years, this site has undergone a massive amount of change. Some for the better, some for the worse. I will hold back any further detail on those facts to remain civil. Many times I've considered jumping ship and setting sail for calmer waters, but I've remained due to several very intelligent and respectful members who still occasion this site as well as MM's excellent stuardship and fairness when dealing with threads and blogger battles.

After reading through today's posts, it makes me wonder weather I made the correct decision.

I hope that all involved can look back on today's events and realize that this site wasn't set up so people can bash one another and tear each other down. It was designed so that all fellow Laker Lovers can come to a place where it's safe to voice opinions about their favorite team, interact peacefully with one another, and connect on an emotional and human level through dialogue.

BTW MM, I forgot to thank you for using my question as the first mailbag thread last Friday. I've been so busy with work and packing this week that my gratitude fell through the cracks.

Justa, this one's for you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHa1ThS9avA

Testing

All of the testy exchanges today were deleted. I don't care who started and who's at fault. These comments will continually be deleted and users will be banned if it doesn't stop.

McClyne1 - Thanks for your patience and I apologize. We've instituted the sign in yet some still can;'t get along. Debate all you want about basketball but stop calling each other's names. I shouldn't have to be a babysitter

Dude...L.A. Times Lakers Blog is DEAD, bad moderator I would guess.

Yeah...this Blog is as dead as LeLoser's 8 championship hopes and dreams

No.Money: Dude...5 > 0

Moderator fine, babysitter overworked,

Yeah, we have a blog that is slowly dying for lots of different reasons ... oh well the PSP is still here. What's a blog without some fiery exchanges every now and then?

Maybe if we had less than a million new posts being put up everyday people would be able to carry on a conversation better ... but like they say, some people just can't and won't listen ... oy vey.

Thanks
PSP Intern

Ah come on MM, compared to what has gone on in the past this morning was just love taps from BB junkies living in the post season. It all got back to Basketball soon enough with smiles all around.

Speaking of BB, I personally haven't given the non-signings and trades a second thought. It is what it is. With luck the next round of trades and signings will produce positive results. Now I just hope the players and the owners realize that they have to do something to allow the fans to be able to afford to watch them play ball.

JR

PSP - No the exchanges were personal and had nothing to do with basketball. I don't put up a million posts. Five posts a day isn't too much.

G Money - I deleted your previous comment. Inappropriate

Jolly Rancher - I don't mind arguments when it's about basketball. It got personal there and I'm not going to tolerate that.

>>>The Lakers won 2 rings in spite of them, not because of them.

And that's a big load of malarkey.

The Lakers faced a team that wrestled their bigs to a standstill and had two quick guards that diced and sliced Fisher in 2009 - Houston. If you replace Farmar with Blake in that series, then the Lakers never make the finals that year.

Farmar made a difference in that series, providing at least some defense on Brooks and Lowry, compared to the complete nothing that Blake and Fisher provided on Barea and Terry. The one game where Fisher got suspended, Farmar did a great job on Brooks, and the Lakers won easily.

Farmar and Sasha earned their rings, and they would have made a difference in the 2011 playoffs if they were still with the team.

Sasha and Farmar each hit 40% of their 3 point shots in the 2010 playoffs.

Blake hit 33% of his 3 pointers and 30% overall in 2011. That's piss poor.

Losing Farmar was about Phil not being willing to switch from a veteran to a younger player (like Dallas switched from starting Stevenson to Barea). Losing Sasha was all about money. Perhaps Phil could have learned something from Carlisle in that respect.

MM

That fact that you deleted this mornings dialogue is ridiculous. Why? because it shows a certain individual in a bad light? That person was in the wrong and you know it. If anything it was just a heated exchange that never went over the line. But you in your questionable wisdom, delete it from existence. Again, why? Because it exposed your pet?


We all know who started it, including you. If I had started it, I can't help but think it would be a different story. There's always been a quick trigger when it comes to me. You give a lot of latitude to you-know-who and others.
I just re-read(before you deleted them) the posts involved and it is clear who the perpetuator was. How many bloggers did this individual have an issue with this morning?

I have nothing against this blogger but when someone's starts a direct conversation with a "how dare you..." what do you suppose my reaction is gonna be? I think you know me all to well. This individual bit off more than she could chew this time and was called out by many regulars. Is this the real reason why you chose to delete it all?

How ironic too, that's how it was with me earlier this season, only the gang tackling was far worse. You chose to back those bloggers up and gave me little-to-no chance for rebuttal, most of my responses were deemed attacking and deleted. My complaint then was it wasn't a level playing field. People have the right to defend themselves, especially if the attacker's posts are not deleted.

Now this is the ironies of all ironies.
When I started to write this particular post, I was unaware that you had deleted this mornings posts and I wrote how I commended you that you let our little squabble play itself out. Lucky for me I went back and found out what you did. Thing is, I respected that and I believe others did too. I thought to myself MM is getting it. You asked us to tone it down this morning and it eventually did. Exactly what happened in the last 12 hours to make you decide to delete it all? Tell us, inquiring minds want to know.

That was history and you changed it. It showed us at our best, worst, and most funny.
Nope, never happened.
Come on.

Laker manegement should admit they blew it by not spending some cash on some 10 contracts for a back-up center, when Bynum was down.

In this great country and development league there must have been SOMEBODY that could have given the Lakers 4 minutes per half. You just can't play Pau at center... or play any big man an avg of 43 minutes per night for two months straight. Maybe in the old days Phil it was common, but this Laker fan since '81 thinks you blew it my not getting some relief...

that still doesn't explain the lack of teamwork between Pau and Kobe in teh playoffs. I mean their pick and roll offense in Jan-Feb-March was artistry..then it vanished...even hobbled, Kobe could have spent some effort drawing a double team and dishing it to Pau for easy buckets.. What happened?

10-day contracts...

"Soft as a rock" that is what says "Slam" about Gasol on July number. Five pages with the true about one of the best NBA players.

hmm,

How shall I denigrate myself this morning? LOL.

Don't know if I can take all this admonishment. LOL

Man, this cyber-hook, line, and sinker, really hurts. LOL

Did I really post someone else's most "Excellent Posts? " LOL

Boy, my tag-team and I really "got served" yesterday, to bad the evidence has been deleted. Lucky us. LOL

The RSP is issuing a court order on MM to reinstate this morning's deleted posts.

The RSP also holds MM in contempt of court for destroying blog evidence with prejudice.

Furthermore, the RSP has issued a restraining order on MM to cease and desist all communication with outside blogs or chat-rooms. This is a serious offense, there is a conflict of interest contacting the competition and seeking their advice regarding your department.

77th District Court, Compliance Dept.

agent in charge:
Regular Season Police

please direct any question to

The whole point of making those roster changes was for the team to get better. That didn't happen. So we had three new players (five, if you count the two rookies) who not only needed to contribute and did not for reasons of discomfort (Blake, Caracter) and/or injury (Ratliff, Barnes, and Ebanks), but you had five new players who needed to learn the Triangle from scratch (which you did not have with the departing four players mentioned above).

I hope it's not a reach to expect that Blake will improve with the team no longer (fully?) utilizing the Triangle.

Unfortunately, the complaints above directed at Farmar could easily be entirely transferred to the player the team *did* keep: Brown. (Inconsistent leadership on the court, inability to always play within the Triangle, poor defense, inconsistent shooting, and sometimes downright bad decision making.) Again, some critics were hopeful that Brown was only impaired the season before by a bad hand instead of a bad head (now we know it wasn't entirely his hand).

After a season in Hell (New Jersey), I wonder if both Farmar and SaVu would prefer come back to the Lakers and play with a bit more humility and consistency. Will Brown and Blake be any better *next* season (if Brown decides not to opt out) than the (agreed, unlikely) prospect of Farmar and SaVu returning?

If I were the GM, I'd take Farmar and SaVu over Blake and Brown next season, unless there are players out there whom the team can get who are better than any of the four of them.

In hindsight the replacements were very disappointing

Blake was a disappointment...especially in the Dallas series. Remember in that one game he totally lost his confidence. Jordan mistakes usually were errors of aggression, whereas Blake was much too tentative. The Lakers missed Farmar's energy and explosiveness. However, I can't blame Mitch for Steve's signing. He just didn't perform as well as expected.

Barnes shouldn't have been playing in the playoffs if he was only 50-70%. I would've preferred a 90% Ebanks. That was is on Phil.

Theo was a failed venture from the beginning. He should've never been signed. That was is on Mitch.

Sasha for Joe Smith salary dump. That one is on Dr. Buss.


Oh well....it was a bad year for Mgmt, coaches and players. A total team effort. It happens sometimes. Three straight trips to the finals takes away some of sting of the 2011 flameout. Time to for everyone to re-up and do a better job in 2012.

LRob

Count me among those who thought yesterday’s lively exchange didn’t cross the line. Just bloggers airing out their differences…which I thought they pretty much settled by the end of the day.

Woo Hoo it’s the last day of school (that’s why things got a little testy yesterday…you know how the end of the school year gets)…anyway there’s only one song appropriate for today. From one of my homies and one of the most recent RRHOF inductees.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qga5eONXU_4

LRob

everyone slow down and take a deep breath, i just wonder that if this is what is happening now, what happens if there IS a lockout? more donner party behavior?

Yeah but MM just doesn't get it. Why go back and delete all those posts that really weren't overboard?

MM you said: "PSP - No the exchanges were personal and had nothing to do with basketball."

My Response: So why the heck have you been putting up all those "useless" posts all season about reality tv and laker blog profiles etc etc. last I checked those have nothing to do with basketball either so better go back and take all of them down! Oy Vey

Thanks
PSP Intern

PSP, Troll Man - I've posted these guidelines numerous times before, but it falls on deaf ears.

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As you can see, you can be disagreeable. But the squabbles between all parties were all personal. Hence, why I deleted them. I at first intervened just as a warning, but because the comments kept coming in and building on top of another, I found it best to delete all of them

Trollman

When is the courtdate? Lol, the PSP can be on duty free of charge!!!


LRob

Excellent breakdown on the replacements. It seems that somehow we managed to screw up on every player we brought in this past season. Maybe Barnes would have worked out better if he hadn't gotten injured; he was playing very well before the injury.

The Theo Ratliff signing and Joe Smith for Sasha have to be the biggest mistakes of them all though. What the heck were we thinking when we signed Ratliff? In fact wasn't he carrying an injury when we signed him initially? I remember something about his feet not being right.

Thanks
PSP Officer

Send Kobe to Cleveland with BD? would that be so bad?

Good Try Mitch

I would not mind seeing any player on the lakers being traded. My top five players to see traded would be: Luke Walton, Bynum, R Tess, LO, Brown, I'm sure there are others I would like to see go too


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