What the bandwagon fans in Miami don’t get that Laker fans know all too well is that champions are built on the backs of superstars but championship teams are made by quality role players. No need to get into all the specifics, saying the names is enough to explain that timeless theory. Robert Horry, Brian Shaw, Kurt Rambis…I think you get the point.
And if the ghosts of role players past isn’t enough then just look to this past season as proof of how important a solid bench comprised of players playing their roles to perfection is. The Lakers had the depth of an inflatable pool this season. Whenever Mike Brown went to the second unit with a lead it was a gamble.
L.A.’s bench was an urban myth this year. There was plenty of talk about it but for the most part it didn’t really exist.
There was the failed experiment of making Metta World Peace a sixth man. Matt Barnes had some good moments but vanished in the playoffs. Andrew Goudelock was the Lakers’ best producer off the bench at one point before his minutes were devoured by Ramon Sessions. And then there’s Steve Blake…don’t get me started.
The irony is that when the Lakers’ bench was best was when Sessions was leading the second unit. While he was adjusting to life in purple and gold Session gave the Lake Show the lift off the bench they so badly needed.
Later it would be the out-of-nowhere emergence of Jordan Hill that had a similar effect but not on the same level as Sessions. Still, Hill was able to take away every minute of PT that was usually going to Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts.
That both Sessions and Hill were trade acquisitions that took away minutes from players that were heavily involved in Coach Brown’s rotation from day one says it all.
Of course the problem is that the Lakers needed Sessions to start so once he was running with the first team the bench was back to producing nothing every night. Hill’s activity and energy proved to be too little too late as Coach Brown didn’t call his number until the final game of the regular season.
Now just to make this even messier for Mitch Kupchak to clean up both Sessions and Hill are set to hit the open market. Both will be looking for more defined and expanded roles which means both will be looking for a reasonable payday. Oh…and Hill has a court case to deal with.
The good news is that quality role players aren’t expensive. The Lakers and their limited funds can actually acquire pieces necessary to help improve the bench. The bad news is that generally the only guys willing to play on the cheap are vets. This team needs a healthy mix of veteran experience and youthful athleticism. How they get those components remains to be seen. But rest assured if this issue isn’t addressed then it doesn’t matter what big name starter comes in because all the Lakers will have done is change the rug when the roof is leaking.