Tomorrow should be the game of the year (so far), and as such, it deserves a slightly more in depth preview than normal. Tomorrow morning, Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold will help break down the Lakers' strong side zone defense. Below, Adam from the great new Lakers blog Lake Show Life talks a little about what makes the Lakers' bench special this season.
Everyone rambles on and on about 2008 NBA MVP Kobe Bryant, his new partner in grind Pau Gasol and the return of "Diaper" Drew Bynum, but what really gives the Lakers the chance to be special -- and I'm talking pushing 70 wins special here, folks -- is the Lakers' second unit. This unit basically consists of four players:
Lamar Odom - Sixth-man extraordinaire. How many other NBA teams have an All-Star coming off of their bench? What I like abut having him be the main man for the second unit is that it allows either he or Kobe to facilitate the offense for basically the entire 48 minutes. He's a Jack of all trades, master of none, which works wonderfully off the bench because the Purple and Gold don't need him to be a master of anything in that role. Well, except making things happen, which he does more often than not. You also have to love his attitude. How many young All-Stars would accept coming off the bench in a contract year without griping?
- Jordan Farmar - The ex-UCLA point guard is only 22, and he's really starting to come into his own. He's always been athletic, but now he's also shooting, passing and defending pretty well. We're all witnessing the actualization of ability with Jordan, and there's a certain swagger he now has because of that.
- Trevor Ariza - The Venezuelan Vendetta may not always show up in the stat sheet, but his activity and energy have made a huge difference so far this young season. For example, he led the Lake Show with a +34 plus-minus rating Sunday against the Rockets. He's probably as active, athletic and bouncy as any young player in the league. Kind of a poor man's Gerald Wallace at this point.
- Sasha Vujacic - The Machine plays at a furious pace, and when he starts off hot you better watch out. He's off to a slow start so far, but he looked better against the Rockets. He's labeled a catch-and-shoot guy, but his overall game continues to improve.
The Fast Four (seriously, these guys are like a blur out there) will likely finish the season with a better plus-minus then the Lakers' starting five, and that's saying something. After all, there's no team that can match up with that kind of firepower off the bench, and that's before I've even mentioned guys like Luke Walton and a rejuvenated Chris Mihm. Even newcomer Josh Powell can ball. Keep an eye on the Lakers' second unit Wednesday night. If they end up beating the Hornets in New Orleans, it will likely be because of bench play.
The way I see it, these should be the bench matchups: Mike James vs. Jordan Farmar, Rasual Butler vs. Sasha Vujacic, Julian Wright vs. Trevor Ariza, James Posey vs. Lamar Odom, Hilton Armstrong vs. Bynum/Gasol. For starters, I list Armstrong against Bynum/Gasol because from what I've seen of the Lakers this year, those two don't generally play on the floor together. They rotate in and out for each other, so Hilton will surely have to guard one of the two.
We really, really, really, really need Julian to play, and more importantly, the Julian of last year to play. Trevor Ariza has had tremendous energy off the bench, as Adam notes, and Wright needs to match that. I hope this is the game Byron Scott finally unleashes Wright.