Lakers Bench: Not So Fast, ‘Renegades’
Los Angeles Lakers' Shannon Brown watches the Lakers lose to the Sun's from the bench in the closing minutes of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals at USAirways Arena on May 25th, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 115-106 to even the series.

In their defense, the bench didn’t really boast an inside presence other than Ratliff, who isn’t exactly being primed to run the offense through. Then there’s the fact that they haven’t played together without a single starter, so perhaps not having being able to establish chemistry was a factor in the bench hitting a rough-patch. Still taking care of the basketball, spreading the floor and getting the ball into the lane, drawing the defense in and then passing to the wide-open shooters on the outside, are fundamentals the bench doesn’t want to ignore.

“Our bench is definitely a talented bench, but we’ve got to build our chemistry,” said Barnes after Saturday’s reserves-only practice. “I think we’re headed in the right direction. When you go to the bench, you really don’t want to have any drop-offs.”

A premeditated sentiment by Barnes, perhaps anticipating Jackson having the opportunity to experiment with the bench given the Lakers’ starters ability to bust-open leads early in games, but not quite expecting the outcome they had Sunday night.

The new-look bench will get a much needed inside-presence in Lamar Odom, who’s been stellar so far early in the regular season by staying away from the perimeter and posting-up more.

All is well that ends well or in the Lakers case, all is well that ends in Ron Artest partaking in some wave action at the Staples Center.  Except that, while holding the offensively-charged, run-and-gun Golden State Warriors to a mere 83 points does wonders to improve the Lakers’ points-per-game average, it does little to boost  Jackson’s confidence in allowing the second unit to play without integrating a starter or two.

Okay, so now the knit-picking begins.

Yes, it’s still a learning process and so long as the starters are able to build leads, it affords Jackson the luxury of inserting his bench—Ebanks and Sasha Vujacic included—in order to mesh as a unit. That is of course they don’t make it all too interesting given the starters are going to need the so-called Renegades to hold onto and even extend leads as the season progresses.

“There’s a lot of potential for this bench to be very good,” Lakers reserve Luke Walton said. “We have a lot of energy, a lot of talent, a lot of playmakers, so if it all works out it will be a very good second unit.”

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