Written by: Steven Almazan
A strong bench is the key to any championship team, and it was evident this past postseason that the Lakers bench did not have the strength nor the depth to support the main cast to a fourth straight trip to the Finals. Even though the experience and leadership of the starting five players remained consistent, the Lakers front office has shuffled the bench each year in order to build off their successes.
There is always a need to improve and build for an even stronger championship team, but the Lakers could not find the right formula this time around. For the previous two championships, the Lakers bench consisted of young players that provided the spark they needed to make round after round in the playoffs. Shannon Brown provided ridiculous takeoffs from the paint for thunderous dunks, Sasha Vujacic provided a surge of three pointers, and Jordan Farmar provided the quick hands to make accurate passes.
The Lakers bench was young and inexperienced, but they were hungry. They were hungry for a taste of the championship, and they were able to deliver the necessary plays to help the starting five. The Lakers have always been a team that relied on its starting players to produce the points for the game, and Phil Jackson has relied on the bench to hold on to the lead for most games. Most other teams in the league have more productive players off the bench, but the Lakers have been a team of All-Stars, with Bryant, Gasol, and Bynum, that made a difference in the game.
There were several new additions to the bench that the Lakers organization believed would continue the success from the past two years, but unfortunately this new compilation of players lacked the ability to deliver consistent play. With the addition of Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Theo Ratliff, and Joe Smith, the Lakers organization hoped that this new mix of veterans would provide the same effort and drive as the previous bench players. But that was the problem. These were veteran bench players, not young players with the energy to supplement the already veteran starting five.
The Lakers front office believed that the addition of Matt Barnes would provide the necessary toughness and aggressiveness that players lacked in the postseason, but he was unable to make much of a different down the stretch. Steve Blake impressed the Lakers front office with his stellar play with the Los Angeles Clippers from the previous year, but he was unable to produce the same effort this year. Theo Ratliff was supposed to provide an additional force down the paint, but his knee injury early in the regular season only allowed him to play in 10 games.
Next: The Killer B’s
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