There was a time early in the year, when the Lakers went to their bench and the team’s lead ballooned. Not lately. When the Lakers go to the bench now Lakers fans are crossing their fingers or reaching for a bottle to numb the pain.
In recent games Pau Gasol has been put in with the bench players to give that group a solid offensive option. And he has advice for his compatriots off the bench — be flexible.
"Some nights points are going to be needed," Gasol said. "It's a matter of understanding that and just doing what's best for the team and sacrificing yourself sometime, which some players are more willing to do and for some players it's a little harder for them to understand."
A lot of those problems understanding roles can be traced to player rotations — once Andrew Bynum was injured Lamar Odom went from the focus of the second unit to starter. And while he has thrived, the second unit has looked lost without its leader.
Before Bynum’s injury, the roles of the second unit were a little more defined. Odom, even on his mentally off nights, created the offense in the half court. That allowed Trevor Ariza to play to his strengths coming off the weak side of the offense. Jordan Farmar had an outlet that could run the floor but create off the dribble in the half court. Sasha could just spot up and shoot.
Now Ariza is having to create some off the dribble, Sasha is not getting the open looks and Farmar seems less certain of what decision to make.
All of that could change when Bynum comes back — either he or a return of Odom to the second unit will help define those roles again. But that is at least a month away, and in the interim the Lakers bench players need to get back to what they do well and not try to do too much. As Gasol said, they need to understand their roles each night and execute them.
Because in May and June, the Lakers are going to need these guys to be back to being the Bench Mob.
Kurt Helin knows his role and sticks to it as the guy behind the Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold.