LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers have a polished, dominant superstar in
The talented troika generates most of the media attention and could probably win 50 games playing alongside Lakers PR boss
But for L.A. to regain its championship swagger, which defined the team earlier in the decade but abruptly vanished against Boston in the 2008 NBA Finals, the ability of another three players to successfully handle one position will be critical.
The position: small forward.
Each brings something different to the table. Odom is a prototypical point forward, a smooth ball-handler who can both ignite a fast break and finish one. Radmanovic is the Lakers' best deep threat, a floor spacer who opens up the lanes for slashing guards. And Ariza is a long-armed defensive maven with superior athleticism and a knack for finding the ball near the basket.
"It's a good problem to have," Lakers coach
Players, however, are not robots, and with Odom (who started 77 games at power forward last season), Radmanovic (a starter for 41 games last season) and Ariza each having a solid argument to play the bulk of the minutes, tensions can mount. That was evident in training camp when Odom initially balked at the possibility of moving to the bench to make way for Bynum's return from a knee injury.
But two weeks into the season, the Lakers appear to have found the right formula. Radmanovic starts (Jackson said he's "playing exceptionally well" and holding his own defensively), Ariza backs him up and Odom fills in at both forward positions. While Jackson says he isn't married to the current rotation, he's satisfied with it for now.
"It's really a combination of personalities and games that fit together," Jackson said. "Hopefully, [Odom, Radmanovic and Ariza] can keep complementing each other so this thing works right. Right now, Vlady works well with that first unit. His shooting ability stretches the defense."
Jackson has kept all three players happy in part through his distribution of minutes. While Odom (26.7 minutes a game through Tuesday), Radmanovic (22.3) and Ariza (22.7) get close to equal playing time, Jackson has appeased Radmanovic by making him the starter while giving both Odom and Ariza significant action in crunch time. Odom (9.2) and Ariza (9.0) are among the team leaders in fourth-quarter minutes.
That's especially important for Odom, who is making $14.1 million in the final year of his contract and will be looking to secure a lucrative, long-term deal in the offseason. Though Odom still considers himself a starter, he has accepted the current situation.
"It is what it is," Odom said. "We lost in the Finals and our mission is to get back there. I won't divert that. I'm going to do what I have to do. Whether it's come off the bench and play five minutes or 20 minutes, it doesn't make a difference to me. I'm 29 years old. This is my 10th season. My goal is to win by any means."
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Sorry, Pete, but I'm not sure what I'd be apologizing for. Yes, I have been critical of both the veteran referee and the NBA for letting his relationship with
I'm sorry that Foster has had to endure the humiliation of having his name dragged through the mud for the last four months, but I'm not sorry for calling for a simple explanation.
If we were talking about any player other than Marbury, I might agree with you. But Marbury represents all that has gone wrong with the Knicks in the last four years. His teammates don't like him -- coach
The only solution is to cut him. Consider that despite not playing a minute this season, Marbury is still a magnet for the media after the game; reporters are hoping to catch him the moment he decides to pop off. That's not good for a team desperately trying to change the culture of the franchise.
Right now, Marbury's value is zero. I talked to a few general managers this week and they said the Knicks have no hope of dealing him because a) they won't take back a contract that goes beyond this season, and b) they want a young player in return.
Marbury's value increases incrementally as the season progresses (and the Knicks sign another paycheck), but I just don't see a team willing to meet New York's demands by the trade deadline. Any team that calls about Marbury is only interested in making the trade for future cap flexibility. Knicks president
Cutting him now doesn't help them financially, but it saves them from reading Marbury's name in a never-ending news cycle.
I couldn't agree with you more, Joe. Being based in New York, I watch
What the NBA needs are more smart general managers. Too often GMs will sign players to ridiculous long-term contracts because it's easier to sign a player and then complain when it doesn't work out than risk not signing him and seeing the team possibly suffer as a result. How many times have we looked on in shock when a team overpays for a player and then puts him on the trading block a year later? What about
It will be interesting to see how Trail Blazers GM