Lakers Rumors: Leaving Roster Spot Open Is Brilliant Move for Roster Flexibility

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2012

April 26, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Andrew Goudelock (0) drives in against the Sacramento Kings during the second quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

For Andrew Goudelock and Darius Johnson-Odom, it seems like their dream of attaining a championship ring with the juggernaut 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers may be over before it could even begin.

According to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, it seems like the Lakers are considering keeping just one of their players with non-guaranteed contracts—and that player is center Robert Sacre. 

Via the Los Angeles Times:

The race for the end of the bench appears to be a one-man show.

The Lakers are leaning toward keeping 14 players on their roster, one below the NBA maximum, meaning Robert Sacre might be the only one to stay among three players with nonguaranteed contracts.

While that will undoubtedly come as a massive disappointment to Goudelock and Johnson-Odom, ridding themselves of both guys is a shrewd move for a Lakers team that could need roster flexibility down the road.

As it currently stands, both youngsters play positions of no need and will likely move on to the D-League, where they will attempt to prove their worth along with many preseason roster cuts.

Let's just say that if the necessity ever arises for Goudelock or Johnson-Odom to be brought back, both will probably be readily available.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles will walk into the 2012-13 NBA season with one of the most talented rosters in the league, but also one with more than a few lingering concerns.

Most notable among those concerns: injuries.

Obviously, a good 95 percent of Laker-related injury speculation has come from Dwight Howard and his recovery from back surgery. The center made his debut Sunday night and looked every bit the part of a superstar, scoring 19 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking four shots in 33 minutes.

Nevertheless, his comeback is a process, as evidenced by the fact that Howard will sit out Wednesday night's tilt with the Los Angeles Clippers (per the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina). 

D12 is also not the only superstar on the Lakers roster with injury questions, as Kobe Bryant has been battling a painful bruise in his right foot this preseason. 

Either way, keeping roster flexibility applies just slightly to stars like Bryant and Howard. If those two are out, the purple and gold are in a heap of trouble—regardless of whom the Lakers bring in.

Where it applies the most is if one of the team's critical reserves—most notably, Jordan Hill—goes down with a serious injury. 

Though Howard's back injury has been the one stealing all the ink in Los Angeles papers, it's actually Hill's that could be more detrimental this season. The forward-center has sat out the last two weeks with a herniated disk in his back, but will make a return to the court Wednesday, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:


After sitting out with back injury, Lakers forward Jordan Hill will return against the Clippers on Wednesday, league source tells Y! Sports.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) October 23, 2012

While that's a good sign for now, it does not mean Hill is out of the woods—not by a long shot. Back injuries, especially herniated disks, are notoriously painful and can become debilitating over time.

By keeping roster flexibility, the Lakers would be able to mitigate the loss of a bench player down the road by signing a free agent to a prorated veteran's minimum contract. 

With Hill's injury possibility and players like Kenyon Martin still lingering on the market, flexibility is far more important than keeping one or two non-contributors on the roster. 

It's an unfortunate stroke of luck for Goudelock and Johnson-Odom, but one that's necessary for the Lakers as they head into a grueling 82-game slate.