The crosstown Clippers are fielding nicknames about their esteemed reserves.
The Lakers are still figuring out who's going to permanently fit their rotation.
Kobe Bryant gushes that Clippers guard Jamal Crawford should win the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year for his consistency.
The Lakers' eventually took their former sixth man Antawn Jamison out of the rotation because of his inconsistency.
The Clippers rank first among NBA's benches in points (41.7), second in minutes (21.5) and second in efficiency (49.7). The Lakers fare among the worst in such categories, including 26 th in points (25.8), 28 th in minutes (14.9) and 25 th in efficiency (29.5).
When the Lakers (15-16) play the Clippers (25-8) tonight in a designated road game at Staples Center, the game won't just add another chapter to a suddenly brewing rivalry. It could also reveal a contrast in benches.
Bryant believes the Lakers' poor bench rankings are misleading.
"Our front five dominates the majority of the game," Bryant said. "They just don't get asked to do the same."
The Lakers' starting lineup in Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Darius Morris score a combined 70.3 points of the team's 102.8 points it averages per contest. They also assume the heavier minutes, including Bryant (38.8), Howard (36), Gasol (34.6) and Nash (31.7).
After starting for 25 games, Metta World Peace has played as a reserve in the past six and averaged 14.3 points in 33.3 minutes per game. The Lakers have also benefitted from Jordan Hill's energy (6.2 points, 5.7 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game) and Jodie Meeks' outside shooting (8.3 points on 37 percent shooting from 3-point range in 19.1 minutes).
The Lakers eventually benefited from trading Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks last season. They used the $8.9 million trade exception stemmed from that deal and a flurry of draft picks to acquire Nash from the Phoenix Suns.
But Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak conceded the short-term hit.
"Losing Lamar really hurt us," Kupchak said. "He was the Sixth Man of the Year. We were very spoiled to have that kind of player come off the bench."
Last year's unit ranked last in total offense (20.5 points per game). But the Lakers addressed various bench needs this offseason by acquiring secondary scoring (Jamison) and outside shooting (Meeks).
"We have a stronger bench than we did a year ago," Kupchak said. "But it's hard to replace the Sixth Man of the Year. We were spoiled."
World Peace pointed the finger at the Lakers' top players, including himself.
"It's up to us to make sure they play well when they're on the floor with us," World Peace said. "It's our fault 100 percent."
The starters don't entirely control that.
"The biggest challenge is finding the eighth, ninth and 10 th guys and make them comfortable with their roles while I'm comfortable with what they give," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I've struggled with that."
D'Antoni initially featured Jamison, who averaged 7.9 points in 26 games and five as a starter. He even ate into Gasol's playing time. But Jamison sat out the past six games because of his offensive and defensive inconsistency, sparking him to temporarily question the demotion and wondering whether the roster shuffling has contributed to the team's inconsistency.
D'Antoni said he will have more stability once Steve Blake returns, but the team has already sensed some improvement. Jamison's demotion has opened up opportunities for Hill, who has provided consistent energy and defense.
Meeks also has an expanded role and has mostly helped the team's outside shooting.
"Coach D'Antoni has showed a lot of faith in our bench," Meeks said. "He's giving our bench a good opportunity to help out."
After hearing all the varying explanations, Blake summed up the bench issues this way.
"There's never just one thing," said Blake, who averaged 5.1 points on 35.3 percent shooting in seven games. "All factors lead into things like that. When it comes down to it, players have to play well when they have their time."
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