When the Los Angeles Lakers re-signed Tarik Black to a two-year deal this summer, Black was coming off a season where he found himself out of the rotation for the majority of the year. Making the most of the minutes, Black averaged 3.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 12.7 minutes in the 39 games his number was called, but he never quite fit into former head coach Byron Scott’s vision.
14 games into the 2016-17 season and locking down a consistent bench role after a solid training camp and preseason, it appears that Black has found his role. The Lakers bench as a whole is the highest scoring second unit in the league and has outscored opposing benches in all but one game this season. That’s something to be proud of.
“We definitely do, we pride ourselves,” Black said about being known as one of the best benches in the NBA. “We’ve got guys that have started in the NBA before, and that have put up numbers as starters before…It’s not like we’re a bench that is inexperienced or a bench that can’t perform at a high level. All of us have shown that we can perform at a high level throughout our careers. Brandon (Ingram) is coming on very strong, he’s shown that he’s a legitimate threat in this league and he’s going to be very good, so we take pride in it honestly. We want to compete, we want to be the best lineup in the NBA period, even over our starters, we want to compete at a very high level period, whether it’s coming off the bench or not.”
Though Black isn’t one of the leading scorers in that second unit (those accolades would generally go to Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson), he is averaging 5.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 14.1 minutes per game this season. Plus, Black has improved his free throw shooting tremendously. After finishing with one of the worst free throw percentages in the league last season (42.2 percent), Black has jumped to an astonishing 84.2 percent from the charity stripe.
It’s not only about his individual game in the second unit but also the way that he and Larry Nance Jr. are able to feed off one another.
“We go back and forth, as you can tell, he (Nance) got three dunks off of the offensive glass last night,” Black said about the Lakers game against the Chicago Bulls. “But if you look at the stat sheet, I had two or three rebounds off kick outs. You pick your poison. You can come get me or Larry is going to have a free run. You go get Larry, then you have to deal with me.”
After being a part of the Lakers worst season in franchise history and struggling to find his way during his second year in the league, Black has even more appreciation for this group.
“It’s been a lot of fun, especially for someone that has been here (with the Lakers) for a second, and just getting to this point now, makes it makes it feel so much better that I made the decision to come back (to the Lakers in free agency this summer), and that we’re putting this team together right now, because I’ve been through the 17-win season…I’ve been through the lulls and now we’re on our way up to where we want to get to and it feels really good to be a part of the ascension.”