You hear people talk all the time about the importance of role players; players who are willing accept a secondary role, focus solely on winning and forgo their own box score ink for the greater good of the team. Sacrifices have to be made. Matt Barnes had to turn down more lucrative offers to come off the bench in LA. Artest had to accept Brown’s offensive emergence. After Bynum’s inevitable return, Odom will have to accept his relegation back to the bench. Robert Horry, the quintessential role player, knew exactly what his teams needed and provided it. He left his ego at the valet stand with his Bentley keys. Seven rings later, he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame—as a role player. The importance of role players in the NBA cannot be overstated.
Take the Miami Heat. Two of the top five individual scorers in the league, but no quality role players to provide the glue. Nobody to come off the bench and provide a spark. Actually, there’s no one to come off the bench and do anything. LeBron is logging more minutes this season than Ron-Ron’s shrink. You can’t compete with three players when the other team is parading out 11 quality guys.
Bench players are an oft-overlooked breed. This year, the Lakers bench is impossible to ignore. In recent years, it has been uncomfortable to watch the bench come in and buy time while Kobe got a few minutes of rest. Now (as I bust out my best Thanksgiving metaphor), the bench is like the delicious gravy poured on top of the turkey and potatoes and stuffing– it only makes the meal that much better.