Five things the Lakers' bench needs to bring this season
1. Clearly defined roles. This will remain a challenge considering no one knows what the Lakers' roster will actually look like. Although it's plausible the team could make a deal for Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, it's already definitive with the Lakers about to formally sign Jason Kapono that the bench will be different. The best way to solidifying the chemistry involves having clearly defined roles.
That can come in many ways. Lamar Odom needs to maintain his bench leadership. Steve Blake needs to become a better playmaker. Matt Barnes needs to display the same efficiency he showed before injuring his right knee last season. Devin Ebanks needs to fulfill his promise at shooting guard. Derrick Caracter needs to have better preparation. And newcomers, such as Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and Kapono need to bolster the Lakers' outside shooting.
2. Maintain sustainable leads. With a brutal 66-game schedule awaiting, the starters will need all the rest they can afford. One way to ensure that involves the Lakers' bench sustaining double-digit leads. To do that, the Lakers bench can't play as if they're simply playing garbage minutes.
3. More assertiveness. The Lakers' veteran reserve unit played unselfishly to a fault. That tentativeness hurt the Lakers in various ways. Blake remained reluctant in taking shots. Brown didn't play much defense. Barnes appeared uncomfortable playing with his surgically repaired right knee. Caracter lacked mobility because of his weight. Increasing their aggressiveness and energy will immediately spur more team chemistry.
4. Stronger outside shooting. This remains one of the Lakers' biggest weaknesses from last season. Blake, Barnes, Ebanks, Morris and Goudelock all spent most of their off-seasons working on their outside shooting. That doesn't provide definitive evidence that will significantly enhance their outside shooting. But considering the Lakers only shot 35% from three-point range last season, the extra work should help.
5. Keep the starters' playing time honest. The bench needs to maintain a fine line in this department. They should still play unselfishly, but they should play effectively enough that starters such as Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace feel their minutes and even starting positions could come into question. Should that happen, it's critical that the starters in turn respond by elevating their play instead of becoming distrustful of the reserves.
— Mark Medina
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Photos, from top: Lamar Odom sits dejected on the bench during the Lakers' loss to Dallas in Game 4 of their NBA playoff series this year; Odom and wife Khloe Kardashian. Credits: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times; Juan Ocampo / Andrew D. Bernstein Associates Photography