Remember just a few weeks ago when it looked like Trevor Ariza was going to get serious consideration as a starter at small forward this year. It was, at the time, the reason Lamar Odom was potentially being moved to the bench. The thinking being that Ariza’s athleticism, defensive ability against other small forwards and 3-point shooting was more of what the Lakers needed out of their starting small forward than Odom’s all-around game.
In recent games though, Phil Jackson seems to be leading more toward starting Vladimir Radmanovic at that spot, as he did at the end of last year. It’s not for sentimental reasons though.
Right now, it’s looking like the Lakers first unit –Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum — is going to be a more half-court oriented group. And with two 7-footers in the post, Jackson needs a legitimate 3-point threat to stretch the defense and keep teams from packing it in down low on Bynum and Gasol. While Ariza can shoot 3s, he’s not as feared, or established as Radmanovic.
“He’s an accurate 3-point shooter, though i wouldn’t say right now that he’s known as a 3-point shooter,” Jackson said of Ariza. “His tendency is not to shoot the ball, whereas Vlade’s tendency is to pull a defense out.”
Jackson, it seems, prefers to let Ariza’s athleticism shine on the more uptempo second unit led by Jordan Farmar and Lamar Odom.
“I don’t want to squelch Trevor’s ability by putting him on the first unit. It would be a disservice to his game,” Jackson said. “He’s much better having the opportunity to play a much more wide-open, quicker game with the second unit. They move the ball well, they run the court well, have a lot of fun on the court. The first unit is more half-court, more settled in and I think that Vlade gives them a great outside shooter to spread the defense so we can run the interior game.”