July 24, 2010

Lakers Bench Mob All But Gone

The scrappy and energetic Bench Mob of the Los Angeles Lakers is all but gone.

A couple seasons ago, when the Lakers starters took a rest near the end of quarters, a young group of subs took the court. Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Luke Walton, Josh Powell, and DJ Mbenga were all counted on to spell the starters and provide a spark of energy on the offense. The bench never lacked the drive but often was too eager for its own good.

For every high-flying Shannon Brown Dunk or Jordan Farmar fast break lay-up or Sasha Vujacic three-ball, there were ill-advised shots, turnovers, and poor shooting. Fans cheered and groaned at the inconsistency of the Lakers bench.

But in the upcoming season, the Lakers bench is no longer the Bench Mob. Of the players in the group, only Vujacic and Walton are under contract. And Luke Walton will likely be playing very limited minutes because of a sever back injury. Brown is still under contract negotiations, and the rest are going to play elsewhere.

The new bench now features veterans Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, plus in all likelihood, rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter. The rookies might get limited tick, but the veterans will take a lion's share of the back-up minutes.

This new crew will not be as energetic as the previous bench teams, but will be tougher on the defensive end and hungry to win a championship of their own. We'll see less of the bonehead plays, but we probably will also see less of the hustle and speedy basketball.

So my hats off to the Lakers' Bench Mob. You had your moments in the regular season and playoffs, excited fans during garbage time, and provided a lot of off-court humor.

Photo: Jordan Farmar (1) splits the defense of Boston's Paul Pierce and Michael Finley (40) for a layup during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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