Training camp for the Los Angeles Lakers has been a battle. A battle for wins (0-4 to start the preseason), a battle for playing time (key positions like back-up point guard have yet to be decided) and a battle for roster spots.
With a 20-man roster practicing day to day, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak will be forced to make cuts and trim down his lineup to 12 before the season begins Oct. 30.
Who's on the bubble? Who has a chance to make the cut? Who will be relegated to the greener pastures of the D-League?
Let's take a deeper dive into those few and final roster spots heading into the 2012-13 season.
Players are invited to training camp for two reasons: to see if they can carve out a role for the team next season and to serve as a "roster body" playing against the prior year's fixtures.
For these players, just getting the chance to play in 5-on-5 scrimmages with world-class players is a "win" and a big career accomplishment.
But in reality, these camp fillers never had a chance of making the roster and essentially serve as warm bodies to challenge the second unit.
Roster bodies such as the undersized Reeves Nelson, undrafted Ronnie Aguilar and freakishly tall Greg Somogyi were invited to camp to fill this role and will be cut/sent to the D-League once roster decisions are made at the end of the month.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, or "CDR" as the kids call him, is making a return to the NBA after playing in Italy during the lockout.
The former New Jersey Net role player is a versatile playmaker who can score but has historically been regarded as a poor passer and below-average rebounder.
Leaving the NBA game might have changed all that as he's impressed the coaching staff with his aggressive play against SG counterpart Kobe Bryant during practice.
And so far, the Mamba likes what he sees:
"He’s a hard worker and he competes.. That’s what I really like. I have no patience for lazy dudes and guys that are weak. He’s a competitor and as a consequence, I help him out a lot."
With the Mamba's endorsement, the Lakers will likely hold onto CDR—either through a roster spot or a stint for the Lakers' D-League team to further build his confidence and earn consistent minutes.
Louisville alumnus Earl Clark has unfortunately not had as successful a training camp as Chris Douglas-Roberts.
According to Lakers.com, Clark is "not expected to be in the regular bench rotation" to start the season.
Tough to argue with that source.
Once healed, the athletic big man should be able to shine defensively for the D-Fenders and should be ready for a big league call-up if Howard or any of the other Laker big men become sidelined with an injury during the season.
The other player in the Dwight Howard trade package—Chris Duhon—has likewise not made a lasting impression on his new team.
In 30 underwhelming minutes of action across three preseason games, Duhon has garnered equal turnovers and assists (2) and has registered a total of four points.
The veteran point guard, despite being under contract for this year and next, has no guarantee of making the team come Oct. 30.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak would prefer a roster dismissal come in the form of a trade, reportedly making it clear to the rest of the league that both Chris Duhon and Steve Blake are available for trade (via ESPN).
Without any clear bites on the trade front, Duhon might survive roster cuts in October but may be supplanted later in the season by the oncoming Darius Morris.
Duhon's replacement could be the University of Michigan's own Darius Morris.
Head coach Mike Brown has been impressed with the 6'4'' guard's improved shooting and ability to pick up the offense during training camp.
Based on what we've seen during this preseason, though, Morris' hard work and talent at practice has yet to fluently translate to an NBA game.
Still apt for turnovers and misreads on offense, the second-year player will likely see D-League action next season (possibly from the start), giving him the chance to build confidence and adjust to NBA speed.
Even if the Lakers favor the veteran Duhon to start the year, Morris will very much be on the Dukie's heels and could overtake Duhon later in the season if Morris continues to show improvement in defense and game management.
A pure shooter and atrocious defender, Andrew Goudelock did not help his case during summer league and has been rather quiet this training camp and preseason.
Goudelock's "best" performance came in the Lakers' third preseason game against the Utah Jazz, scoring six points in 15 minutes of action while committing two turnovers and struggling to keep up with the Utah's guards.
CDR likely has the edge as the team's third SG, meaning Goudelock, his one-handed floater and his $762,195 salary should see the D-League to start the year.
The latest Odom to wear No. 7 for the Lakers is directly competing against Andrew Goudelock to be the Lakers young hybrid PG/SG (do they need two?)
Where Goudelock has the edge in shooting, DJO has the edge defensively with his large wingspan and aggressive style matching up against ballhandlers.
The first-year player is likely too raw to make the 12-man cut come Oct. 30, and he should find time alongside Goudelock in the D-League to work on his skills and improve his confidence.
The last pick of the 2012 NBA draft might be the first off the bench for the Lakers to start the season if the team's big men Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill are not ready by opening night.
Known primarily for his defense, Sacre has drawn praise in place of Dwight Howard this preseason through his all-out hustle, curling right-handed hook shot and solid form at the free-throw line.
Sacre's debut under the bright lights may be TBD with Jordan Hill (back, herniated disc) expecting to be ready for the season opener (via LA Times).
Still, with hustle, youth and defense on his side, Sacre will likely be a favorite of the defensive-minded Mike Brown and could earn a nice role in the Lakers' regular rotation.
Mike Brown and GM Mitch Kupchak will base their roster decisions on chemistry and health, particularly that of Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill, when they turn in their lineup card before the Lakers' home opener against the Dallas Mavericks.
Presuming this 1-2 punch down low is healthy, the 12-man opening day roster might look as follows:
|Kobe Bryant||Robert Sacre|
|Dwight Howard||Darius Morris|
|Steve Nash||Andrew Goudelock|
|Pau Gasol||Darius Johnson-Odom|
|Metta World Peace||Earl Clark|
|Antawn Jamison||Reeves Nelson|
|Jordan Hill||Ronnie Aguilar|
|Jodie Meeks||Greg Somogyi|
|Chris Douglas-Roberts |
With Hill, Howard and Gasol able to rotate at center, Sacre's services may not be needed just yet.
What the Lakers will need to start the season is CDR's playmaking abilities off the bench to spark a laggard second unit that has failed to impress this preseason.
Mike Brown favors veteran players, giving Duhon the slight edge over Morris. Despite this nod from his head coach, Duhon will have to prove he still has something left in the tank to keep the surging Morris at bay.