We’ve all heard the saying, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
After winning the 16th championship in franchise history last June, Mitch Kupchak, general manager of the Lakers, added five new faces to the Lakers bench. Theo Ratliff, Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and the two rookies (Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter).
From the day those players were brought together, the core of the bench were dubbed the Killer B’s (Brown, Barnes and Blake).
There was just one problem: the Killer B’s lacked any type of sting all season long.
Shannon Brown started the season auspiciously, stroking the three exceptionally well and providing his usual defensive tenacity, but tailed off significantly as the season progressed.
Steve Blake looked like a D-league call up lost in the triangle offence at times.
And Barnes was the most effective out of the Killer B’s, until a knee injury sidelined him for eight weeks in January.
You know the rest of the story by now. The Lakers’ lack of depth was exposed in the playoffs by the Mavericks, along with a slew of other issues; and here we are in June, watching an NBA Finals matchup without the Lakers for the first time since 2007.
The Kamenetzky brothers wrote on their Land O’ Lakers blog on ESPN, that the Lakers’ top offseason needs are point guard productivity and outside shooting.
The remedy to those concerns lie in two players who used to be Lakers.
Back up point guard, Jordan Farmar and sharpshooter Sasha Vujacic.
Let’s first address the Lakers’ outside shooting (or lack thereof): The Lakers shot 35.2 percent from the beyond the arc.
When you’re constantly trading twos for threes, you’re eventually going to get burnt. Los Angeles learned that the hard way in game four of the Dallas series, when the Mavs converted on 20 threes compared to LA’s five makes.
Yes, most of the 3-pointers were a product of the Lakers’ poor rotation, JJ Barea’s penetration and lack of defensive effort as a unit. At the other end, nothing was going down for the Lakers on the perimeter, thus making it very difficult for Bynum and Gasol to operate when Dallas was able to collapse on the twin towers without being punished.
I’m not saying Sasha Vujacic would have turned the tide of that series, but he most certainly would have had an impacted the game with his jumper — the X-factor if you will.
Unfortunately seven weeks into the season a disgruntled Vujacic was shipped to Newark for Joe Smith’s corpse and a draft pick. The Machine was never able to live up to his 5.5 million contract renewal he signed during the summer of 2008.
Vujacic was dissatisfied with his role on the Lakers, as he was stuck behind Bryant, Brown and even Ebanks, unless the Lakers were involved in a blowout, Vujacic was glued to the bench like Elmer’s.
Things officially turned sour for Vujacic in March of 2010 when he yelled at assistant coach Brian Shaw during a game against the Thunder. From that day forward, Vujacic was in Jackson’s doghouse.
In a Nets uniform, Vujacic immediately found playing time. He averaged 28 minutes and 11.2 points in the 54 games he played for the Nets, both career highs.
He even had a couple of Sports Center-worthy moments when he flipped in an easy lay-in at the buzzer to defeat the Bulls. Not to mention the unforgettable deep three he drained against the Raptors in England to send the game to double overtime.
Vujacic looked like a new man, conjuring up memories of his 2008 season when he earned his nickname as the Machine.
As a huge Sasha fan, I followed him closely in his time in New Jersey. When given the minutes, he was productive. He moved the ball extremely well, played good team defense and coach Avery Johnson even diagrammed several plays to free up Vujacic.
Vujacic is a free agent again this summer, and it wouldn’t sound so farfetched that the Lakers offer him a more reasonable contract. If the Nets don’t re-sign him, I’m sure his play in the second half of the season will land him a contract somewhere.