The 15th man

We are probably guilty as writers of wasting too much ink on who gets the 15th spot on an NBA roster. Devin Green won the spot last season with the Lakers and played a total of 135 minutes in 27 games.

His biggest basketball claim to fame so far is being the player who checked in for Kobe Bryant at the end of Bryants 81-point game.

Even so, it was hard to watch the end of Tuesdays 96-91 exhibition loss to Sacramento and not think that a job was there for the taking. It probably still is, judging from how things went.

Veteran guard Aaron McKie started the game and got hurt in the second minute. After playing only 14 games last season, McKie has to prove he is healthy to stay on the roster. A back injury is not a good thing for a 34-year-old player.

The two players with a chance to replace McKie are Green and J.R. Pinnock, the Lakers second-round draft choice. Green got the chance to play 10 minutes in the fourth quarter Tuesday while Pinnock played six minutes.

Green made one great play, driving for a three-point play that put the Lakers in front with 5:26 left. But it was all downhill for him from there.

Down the stretch, Brian Cook passed on an open shot in favor of Green, who missed a jumper from the left corner. He had a pass stolen and was tied up in the lane for a jump ball the Kings won.

With 2:38 left, John Salmons beat Green on a drive as part of a go-ahead three-point play. Green didnt get the help he was looking for but said afterward, “Bottom line, Ive got to make the stop.

Green went on to miss a jumper from the wing with 41 seconds left and the Kings leading 92-89. He finished the game 1 for 7 with five points and three rebounds in 14:36.

You have to remember that Green was getting a rare taste of playing in crunch time, even though he has been in the NBA for a season.

He made only 6 of 28 shots last season and has to prove he can shoot well enough to stay in the league. He also has to make his mark as a defender, which is why the Salmons basket really hurt.

I asked him a couple of questions after the game, starting with how he thought he did.

“I think I did pretty good, Green said. “I think our team defense – - our communication – - has to get a lot better and that will make us excel and be able to take the next step in the playoffs as we continue to learn each other and build chemistry.

“Myself, youre always your worst critic. Until I really go back and watch the tape, I feel like I played all right but I know I can play much better. It was a new experience for me, but at the end of the day its just basketball.

Do you feel more confident in your shot?

“I really do. Its just all about being comfortable and being in that situation more often, so youre familiar with it and just be able to calm down and knock down the shots.

Is it a tough situation playing for a job?

“I think it was tougher last year because it was all new. This year, Ive already been through it. You just try to go out there and relax and leave it all out there on the court.

Pinnock, meanwhile, was less involved than Green. He missed everything on a 3-pointer from the corner that would have tied the game with two minutes left. He had a 3-pointer at the buzzer rim out as well.

Pinnock also had a bad sequence at the start of the second quarter when he picked up his dribble a step before the halfcourt line. The Kings trapped him, Pinnock coughed up the ball and Francisco Garcia scored on a layup.

The next possession, Pinnock missed a dunk. He finished with four points on 2 for 7 shooting in 12:08.

So whos it going to be?

The Lakers already have invested a season in developing Green, although Pinnocks athleticism has impressed the coaches.

There is another factor to consider: The Lakers have their own NBA Developmental League affiliate and probably would like to make use of it this season. Pinnock is the player who makes more sense for the D-Fenders than Green.

Its a tough road to go from being undrafted (as Green was) or being taken late in the second round (as Pinnock was) to making an NBA roster. Both players still have a ways to go before its decided.

* * *

A couple of notes from Tuesday nights game: Give credit to Jordan Farmar, who bounced back from a nightmarish first half in which he totaled five turnovers. Farmar had five assists and no turnovers in 17 minutes in the second half.

Farmar was the victim of a tough call in the first quarter. He beat Mike Bibby in the lane and floated in a shot as the 24-second clock sounded. But Farmar was called for a late charge on the play and the basket was erased. . . .

Vladimir Radmanovic fouled out in only 15 minutes. If only the game could have ended after the first minute for Radmanovic, who pounced on an entry pass for a steal and drilled a 17-footer at the other end. . . .

Assistant coach Kurt Rambis lit into Smush Parker after Parker somehow was called for an eight-second violation in the second quarter after the Lakers coaching staff had made clear the time situation to him. . . .

One great sequence in the first half – - it might have been the only one – - had Farmar lobbing a pass inside to Turiaf, who caught the ball and then fired a pass back outside to Brian Cook for a 3-pointer. . . .

Lamar Odom vowed this season to keep his comments to the officials to a minimum. But Odom was visibly frustrated at a call by referee Matt Boland in the second quarter and was assessed a technical foul early in the third quarter.

It didnt help Odoms state of mind that he missed three free throws in the first half.

Odom also paid tribute to his infant son Jayden on his sneakers Tuesday. Where Odom has written the names of his mother and grandmother in the past, he added the words “Baby J on his Nikes. . . .

The Lakers received a delay of game warning when Green checked in with his jersey untucked. The NBA has made it a point of emphasis for referees this season.

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  • Michael Teniente

    Watching the game on TV it’s obvious to me that Smush Parker is not a point guard. Although Farmar had a rough 1st half his energy and court awareness makes Parker look like a guy who is playground trying to fit into a structured offense. Farmar is professional.

    I look for Sasha to be the starting PG when the season begins. Although he’ll be holding it until PJ is ready to give it to Farmar.

    mike