View from the bench is there’s room to grow

One game into the regular season and already there was the search for a story line, this after the Lakers got their championship rings Tuesday night and defeated the Clippers on an emotional evening in the season opener.

And there it was at the Lakers’ practice Thursday, a developing plot.

What’s wrong with the Lakers’ bench?

There were questions asked about how poorly the bench performed in the first game.


Here’s the thing: The reserves asked the same questions.

“Yeah, we’re probably making too much of it,” Luke Walton said after practice Thursday. “But the guys on the bench are upset with the situation, with all that stuff. The coaches are probably upset with us. We’ve got 81 [games] more. We’ve proven over the last three years that we have a pretty reliable bench.”

It wasn’t just that the Lakers’ bench wasn’t productive, scoring a total of nine points against the Clippers and playing limited minutes, forcing the starters into logging heavy minutes.

It was also the rocky way the bench played.

The Lakers’ reserves helped build a 15-point lead a little over a minute into the second quarter, but their poor play resulted in the lead dwindling to three points when five substitutes were on the court, forcing Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to bring back four of his starters.

Three minutes 33 seconds into his stint in the second quarter, Jackson yanked Sasha Vujacic from the game, a sign of things to come for the rest of the bench.

“Sasha didn’t have much of a run,” said Jackson, whose team plays the Dallas Mavericks tonight at Staples Center. “He got taken out right away when he made an inconsistent defensive play and then reacted the way we don’t want him to react to Lamar [Odom]. We want him to take advice from his teammates, especially guys that have experience out there. I don’t want him to have those kinds of emotional things on the floor. I’d like for him to keep that contained.”

Vujacic played just under five minutes for the game.

“I don’t want to complain about anything ever,” Vujacic said. “I just want to do the best I can.”

Jordan Farmar played the most, about 15 minutes, of any of the team’s reserves Tuesday, but he wasn’t content with his play.

“Jordan, he takes the responsibility of how the team plays on his shoulders, which is not unusual for point guards,” Jackson said. “But it’s not all his responsibility. He felt like things kind of came apart when he had the steering column out there.”

What worry?

Sure, Pau Gasol will miss his second straight regular-season game tonight because of a strained right hamstring, his eighth consecutive game including the last six exhibition games.

But are the Lakers worried about missing their All-Star forward?

“Hey, we’re not worried about this,” Jackson said. “We’re just taking this real slow. Don’t you [in the media] worry about it, either, OK?”

Gasol didn’t practice Thursday but did work out on one of the exercise machines.

Jackson said Gasol may play Sunday night.

Artest vs. Cuban

In a recent interview, Dallas owner Mark Cuban suggested that Ron Artest joining the Lakers could become an issue. The two will see each other tonight for the first time since Cuban’s comments.

“I think he’ll add some character to that team,” Cuban said in his recent interview. “Whether it’ll be positive or negative will be interesting to see.”

Jackson stood up for Artest.

“I like a lot of Mark’s comments. He’s done a lot for the league, he’s done a lot for that franchise,” Jackson said. “But when he attacks players, that does get to your family and you just don’t want to have him talk about your family.”