The Lakers' second unit gets a lot of credit for what they have done during this season. They consistently outscore and outplay the opposing bench. There is no doubt about the depth and overall confidence of the second team.
We have been told, since the beginning of the season, that Lamar Odom was the leader of this destructive second unit, and I'm not here to contend against that. Lamar has become a much more vocal leader, urging the younger player to make plays and contribute. They understand that they must be in control of the game when the stating five disperses from the floor.
Yet, I'd like to make a strong claim if I may. Odom may be the leader of the second unit, but Trevor Ariza is the group’s star. When I see Ariza, I see a younger Kobe Bryant in many ways. That is something special.
The player who was obtained, through what could only be considered as the second greatest steal of last season, for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans, has shown his intensity for competition. Phil Jackson has placed him in several high stakes situations this season, at times putting him in with the starters.
One of the biggest changes in Ariza's performance has been his outside shot. Ariza is shooting a little over 31 percent from behind the arc this season and that is outstanding, considering that he has only shot for 28 percent in his career. He has been averaging nine points per game, 4.8 rebounds, two assists, and 1.7 steals. The most shocking aspect is that all of this in only a little over 24 minutes a game.
Furthermore, his level of defensive play has been incredible. In the Christmas game, against the Celtics, he was placed on Paul Pierce and was able to disrupt Pierce enough to make him a small factor. That alone is enough for a defensive resume.
So, what is the impact of Ariza being out for a game, if not more? For starters, it's going to call on more minutes from the other forwards. Luke Walton will need to step up, as well as Vladamir Rodmonovich. These two can certainly cover the scoring, but that brings the question of who will need to step up on the defensive side of the ball?
That question is answered with one name—Odom.
Mr. X Factor himself will need to be the defensive anchor of that second unit. If he plays up to his abilities, he should have no qualms in doing so.
The Lakers will desperately need Ariza for the last two games of the "Grammy Road Trip." The away contests with Cleveland and Boston will prove to be extremely tough at the end of a long and exhausting 11-day excursion.
If the Lakers are without him, it could prove to be a very long road trip indeed. Ariza has found his place in Los Angeles’ system. A stretch without him could round up several more tallies in the loss column.
Hurry back Trevor—we need you.
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