Special thanks to Travis J. Rodgers for submitting his take to the Lakers Nation and giving us the rights to post it on the blog. Once again, if you have your own take and want to see it on TLN, feel free to e-mail it to us at Articles@theLakersNation.com.

After the Los Angeles Lakers’ failure to capture the 2008 NBA title, fans turned immediately to consoling themselves with thoughts of the roster-that-could-be in 2008/2009. If the prospects of a lineup including Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum do not elicit a salivatory response in one, one just might not be a Lakers fan. Because that lineup is simply devastating, featuring four players capable of putting up twenty points with some regularity and two who can score thirty or more. And of course one of them is the greatest offensive weapon in the game. But fairy tales rarely contain more than a trace of reality. The preseason seems to suggest that the Frightening Five is not to be.

In the first place, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have struggled to play together on the court effectively. It is not at all evident what the problem is, as Gasol has played a good deal of Power Forward in his career and has an effective jump shot while Bynum is a prototypical Center. Gasol’s finesse play would be backed by Bynum’s power game. Yet reports from Lakers camp are that the two on the court at once is not working so Bynum may be headed to the bench.

Second, Lamar Odom, who has played essentially every role on this team except Shooting Guard, showed up to camp out of basketball shape (perhaps more mentally than physically) and threw a fit when early indications pointed to his inability to play in the starting lineup. Rumors of his playing at Shooting Guard or even Point Guard have been tossed around. Most recently, he has shown signs of having come to terms with the possibility of being first off the bench.

So where does this all leave the Lakers’ rotation? If Bynum and Odom both move to the second unit, Fisher and Bryant would still man the back court, but there would be a considerable shakeup in the front court. Gasol would return to Center, where he was adept offensively for the Lakers last season. Trevor Ariza might slide into the starting Small Forward role by default as Sasha Vujacic’s avulsion fracture will keep him out of the bulk of preseason and prevent him from competing for a starting spot (should that happen, Bryant would slide to a slightly more effective Small Forward role). Vladimir Radmanovic would presumably be Phil Jackon’s top choice for starting Power Forward. Radmanovic, when playing his best, is a solid player in the mold of Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu. He can do everything reasonable well, including defend when he puts his mind to it (in this sense, he is not as effective offensively as Peja but is superior defensively). Yet at his worst, he is a train wreck on the court.

So why is Radmanovic even in the running for a starting gig? If Jackson’s appreciation for offensive play borders on the obsessive, his ability to look past defensive inconsistencies and hope that some Zen spirit infuses the unit and brings it to a higher level borders on the obscene. So expect Radmanovic to start if Bynum and Odom are both pushed to the second unit. In such a situation, the sole response that would put LA in good shape on both sides of the ball would be to put Ariza at the Small Forward spot. His offensive game has some limitations, notably in terms of ball handling and distance shooting, but with Fisher, Bryant, and Gasol on the court, the Lakers would still fare reasonably well in those categories. The lack of a true Point Guard did not hurt LA except possibly for the NBA Finals. Bryant’s ability to create a shot off the dribble would be augmented by Ariza’s, who is arguably the second most skilled (although Jordan Farmar certainly makes a strong case) on the team at creating in such conditions. Vlad’s weak defense can be concealed by Ariza’s tough-minded approach and there is always the Jacksonian hope that feeding a player’s offensive game will spill over into his defensive efforts. So perhaps things will work out. Imagine if they do.

LA’s starting five would still be one of the best in the game, but when it comes to second units, imagine a team trying to compete with Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum. Or perhaps it would be Walton out and Josh Powell in, with Odom sliding to the Small Forward spot. At any rate, no team in the NBA can compete with that. Perhaps that is the fantasy Jackson has. Now for the serious problem.

Basketball players are not chess pieces. You cannot manipulate them around the depth chart like pawns on the board. Even if he plays thirty or more minutes per game in Jackson’s plans, Odom may not respond psychologically to the demotion from the starting lineup. And after the season Andrew Bynum was having until his injury, and given how hard he worked during the offseason, his plans were not to serve as backup. As a young player eyeing a big contract, the stress on Bynum is already considerable. Struggling to find regular heavy minutes in Jackon’s often inconsistent substitution plans may take their toll. And this is all assuming things go swimmingly in the starting lineup. If not, further shakeups will be necessitated.

So while there have been numerous defining moments in Phil Jackson’s career, it is unclear that there has ever been a more monumental test looming for his skill at manipulation. Hailed as the Zen Master, Jackson has battled to fit together jagged-edged egos into a seamless puzzle. Perhaps he has always succeeded in the past, but this season may pose the greatest test yet. Whether Jackson will be remembered ultimately as a cool and calculating genius or a mystical eccentric could be determined over the next few months.

  • ShortDiezel

    It is too early to say Bynum and Gasol will not work.. They need at least 2-2 months playing time together, but if it doesn’t work after that then I would do the following:

    Fisher
    Kobe
    Ariza
    Powell
    Gasol

    Farmar
    Sasha
    Walton
    Odom
    Bynum

  • ryguy2303

    I think there’s a typo. Shouldnt it be ‘reasonably well’ not reasonable well? :)

  • cwpunit

    WRONG!!! If Bynum goes to the bench, there’s no reason for Odom not to start. He has a great chemistry with Gasol in the frontcourt. Secondly, playing rad at the 4 leaves us more exposed inside and we would have 1 big to rebound. If all else fails, we will play like we were before Bynum went down last year. This time we will have Pau starting instead of Kwame, a big upgrade.

  • 123kid

    [Comment ID #52460 Will Be Quoted Here]

    that is a def tough tough team to beat especially when there is so much depth in both line-ups. teams like the celtics will literally have to keep putting in the big 3 just to try and compete with us.

  • jamills21

    Everybody needs to chill about the rotation. the Lakers have had 3 games and everybody is jumping to conclusions about player performances. Last time i checked, Phil Jackson is the greatest coach in the game today. He will have everything situated by the time the season comes around.

  • SamV

    i think there are a few holes here. First of all, if bynum comes off the bench, odom can stay in the starting a pf and rad man/ vujacic/ ariza can play sf. It would be just like last years line-up only with more depth coming off the bench. Remember last season before bynum got injured? He and jordan farmar would come of the bench and put up great numbers and their chemistry was perfect. Think about that. The only thing that would really change is our ending five. And that’s is a great problem to have. You would have a different five at the end of every game probably depending on what is proven as effective.

  • Moses

    If Bynum doesn’t start then u gotta start LO, that’s just the purely obvious point to make.

    If a starting 5 of Fish, Kobe, Vlad, Lamar and Pau got to the finals then replace Vlad with Ariza and u got some defensive intensity to take the pressure off Kobe allowing him to play more freely offensively.

    Then even if Bynum doesn’t start [which i think he will] then he’s still an absolute talent to bring off the bench, come on, what team has anybody close ot him on their bench as a big??

    It annoys me that people write off our tema before the season even starts, pre-season ain’t nothing, u wait til the real dance begins, and the big duo of Pau and Andrew will start to get some chemistry.

    People act like there’s a big deal when they’ve played 3 games [and not big mins] together, Bynum is coming off of injury, and Pau’s had a long summer, come on man give it a rest!

  • alan

    we the best team in the world man!!!. iknow random comment. but we are.

  • Brian

    did you guys forget odom has been a starter in his entire life? there has not been 1 game (from what i recall) in which he came off the bench. if bynum doesn’t start, there is NO reason for odom to come off the bench. odom started playing 2x times better once we got pau and he will continue to play at a high level as long as pau is in the lineup.

  • ICE CREAM MAN

    So far, what I was able to see, Bynum is not worth what he is asking. Especially someone who will be coming off the bench.

  • artpolo5

    Hey ice cream man, go eat some ice cream you dont know anything! Bynum is not worth what hes asking GET OUTTA HERE!

    Moses is right, Lakers are gonna gel there’s no question about it, Bynum and Pau should start together, if not, Pau and Odom should start with Bynum getting split minutes with Odom. I mean seriously if you put yourself in Phil Jackson’s position you’ll be too confused on how your going to give these guys some playing time. There’s just too many good players to give descent amount of playing time (which is a GREAT thing to have).

    My starting Five would be:

    Fish
    Kobe
    Odom
    Pau
    Bynum

    I wanna see this team play, we would have Great Defense, and Great Offense. The Offense that scores a lot of points because were gonna be getting dunks, layups, and fouls all day long!

  • sepehr

    [Comment ID #52472 Will Be Quoted Here]

    How can you have a front court of Odom, Gasol and Bynum. The lakers showed last year that they need shooters to spread out the defense and last time I checked odom was not a good shooter. I would start Ariza or Radmanovic alongside Gasol and Bynum. The big lineup can be used throughout the game to imrpove defense and rebounding.The lakers have so many good players that I think they should change their lineups and rotation everygame according to whats needed. here are some examples:

    Quick and shooting lineup:
    Fisher
    Kobe
    Ariza
    Odom
    Gasol

    All Around Lineup:
    Fisher
    Kobe
    Ariza
    Gasol
    Bynum

    Big Lineup for slwoing tempo:
    Fisher
    Kobe
    Odom
    Gasol
    Bynum

    I cant believe everyone is stressing out about who to start. We have so many good players and in around 15-20 games Phil will realize his best lineups and use them accordingly. Phil Jackson is a genius and will figure it out.

  • ICE CREAM MAN

    Hey artpolo5… I do know something, I know that those ice cream foots with the gumball on the toe are pretty damn good.

  • lafanfromindiana

    I would rather see GaSoft come off the bench rather than Bynum.

  • kobean

    [Comment ID #52468 Will Be Quoted Here]
    odom has not started his whole life
    in 2001-02 elton brand was power forward and corey magette was small forward http://www.basket-stats.info/nba/2001-2002/teams/west/l.a.-clippers.htm

  • http://myspace.com/sonicussj Whatsa

    I liked the idea posted a couple of days (or one week ago) where the guy proposed that there be two line-ups depending what kind of team we’re going against, like a shooting/fast pace team or a big, defensive team.

  • Anonymous.

    [Comment ID #52480 Will Be Quoted Here]

    Same here. Gasoft and Odumb should definitely be 2nd unit. The synergy gasol and odom have is great. If Odom can be the facilitator for the team with Pau alongside him while Kobe’s on the bench, that would make the 2nd unit all the more better. Pau + Odom = strictly offense with Sasha as the swingman and hopefully Farmar as the slasher.
    Kobe + Bynum = solid defense and solid offense with Ariza in the lineup as well as vladrad/fish jackin up 3s.

  • ignard

    I’m just giddy that we have this “problem”.

  • http://www.thelakersnation.com Fred A.

    This trade would take care of everything:
    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/features/traderesult?players=136~1022~3214~3251~617~1016~2027&teams=13~13~13~17~17~17~17&te=&cash=

    IMAGINE: :) :) :) :) :)
    Fisher/Farmer/Yue
    Bryant/Vujavic/Crawford
    Carter/Ariza/Giles
    Gasol/Powell/Juliauni
    Bynum/Mihm/DJ
    Send Simmons 2 D-League

  • yellowpurplefever

    PJ are still figuring out how the puzzle be best put together. I think the only real starters on this team are Kobe, Pau, and Fish(for now) and the rest will be fill-in depends on game strategies. I like to add Ariza, Andrew
    or Ariza, Powell
    or Powell, LO
    sheldomly Vlady or Sash, Andrew
    We need pure shooters to spread out the defense but, then we lack Defense(Vlady)
    If Powell can shoot the 15 or 20 like Udonis then we are set at SF.
    I just can’t stay the way V-lady play especially DEFENSE AND FREAKING TURNOVERS (clumsy fool)

  • aggressive expansion

    i think the dodgers should get jake peavey. now that’s random.

  • lakerferlife7

    Oct 16th, 2008 at 7:56 pm
    lafanfromindiana on October 16, 2008 at 6:37 pm said:

    I would rather see GaSoft come off the bench rather than Bynum.

    Same here. Gasoft and Odumb should definitely be 2nd unit. The synergy gasol and odom have is great. If Odom can be the facilitator for the team with Pau alongside him while Kobe’s on the bench, that would make the 2nd unit all the more better. Pau + Odom = strictly offense with Sasha as the swingman and hopefully Farmar as the slasher.
    Kobe + Bynum = solid defense and solid offense with Ariza in the lineup as well as vladrad/fish jackin up 3s

    wtf r u kiddin me….how can u think that 2 once allstars r gnna cem off the becnh………bynum still has to prove that he desirves to start wit gasol….and people quit talkin shiit bout gasol last year we were beging for a player like gasol….STFU WHEN U DONT KNOW WTF UR TALKIN BOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nabil

    Yeah, let’s not even be talking about putting Gasol on the bench. That’s just crazy.

    I second the notion that we DON’T CHANGE the starting line-up from the team that got us 2 wins from the chip. That line-up was awesome. Lamar played crazy efficient in that line-up. Let the younglings come off the bench.

    Problem is, how to manage the minutes without sliding Lamar to the 3. It can actually work out just fine…

    With the following sub pattern for the 4&5 spot, each guy get’s 8 minutes of action, followed by 4 of rest. (Except for the very beginning of the game.)

    Minutes 1-4: Lamar, Pau
    Minutes 4-8: Pau, Bynum
    Minutes 8-12: Lamar, Bynum
    (repeat each quarter)
    So each one will play just 32 minutes per game.

    Of course this doesn’t address the issue of keeping other bigs involved in the game. I would say have them come in when there is foul trouble/unjuries. Problem is, if you slide Lamar to the 3, it eats up time where we already have a slew of 3’s.
    Hmm, wait a minute…here’s a better solution:
    TRADE LAMAR AND ONE OF THE 3’s FOR A KILLER 3. In other words, trade away some of our excess depth for having a monster 3.
    Problem with Prince (who would be perfect) is, the trade values don’t really work.
    Can you say MATRIX?
    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/features/traderesult?players=617~2027~510&teams=14~14~13&te=&cash=
    LOL, good luck getting rid of Walton though.

  • richiecrisanto

    dont worry, i remember a team that had two seven footers and they did pretty well. anyone remember tim duncan david robinson? but they didnt have that one guy on the lakers whats his name, number 24? well i think its going to work out fine, call me overly optimistic but im going to guess about 65 68 wins this year. plus the ship. LETS GO LAKERS!!!!!!!

  • kb24thebestever

    on defense:
    -kobe.pg
    -fisher.sg
    -odom.sf
    -gasol.pf
    -bynum.C

    on offense
    -odom.pg
    -fisher.sg
    -kobe.sf
    -gasol.pf
    -bynum.C

    man just let the big 5 play together they’ll make it work trust me specially when you got players like fisher and kobe that are tough mentally.