McRoberts and Murphy
A popular free agent, McRoberts received interest from several teams before deciding to come to Los Angeles from Indiana, while Murphy slid largely under the radar after injury-plagued stints in New Jersey and Boston made it seem like more than two seasons since he averaged 14.6 points and 10.2 boards for the Pacers in 2009-10.
That the two forwards had only just been unwrapped from their Lakers wrapping paper wasn't helped by the fact that they had less than two weeks to learn Mike Brown's new system before opening day. With varying skills, the plan was to deploy McRoberts and Murphy off the bench, but Andrew Bynum's 4-game suspension to start the season meant 26.3 minutes per game for Murphy, and 25.3 in a starting role for McRoberts. Talk about learning on the fly.
"It's starting to come more quickly now," said McRoberts. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can on the court, no matter what it is, to help the team win as we continue to learn the system."
Thus far, each has done his best work on the glass, Murphy's 27 boards (nine per game, 11 vs. Utah) leading the team, and McRoberts' 19 ranking fourth despite his being bothered by a sprained left thumb and left big toe. Neither has shot/finished well, making 6-of-15 field goals apiece, but McRoberts has blocked four shots coming across from the weak side to help clog the paint, Murphy has spread the floor with his three-point shooting and tipped in misses and both have moved the ball well to the tune of five respective assists.
That said, it's been outside of the box score that each has made his biggest impact. As McRoberts sneaks in for a weak side offensive rebound, Murphy follows on the next possession with a tap out of a miss. When McRoberts dives on the floor for a loose ball, Murphy trails the play to draw out the defense for his accurate three-point shot. As Murphy sets a back screen for Kobe Bryant, McRoberts throws a pretty bounce pass through traffic.
Of course, each has made plenty of mistakes, particularly in L.A.'s Monday evening loss at Sacramento, turning the ball over (McRoberts has four T.O.'s), getting lost on defensive rotations or mixing up spacing on offense. But Coach Mike Brown has been pleased with their collective effort since camp began, culminating in Tuesday's 96-71 win over Utah.
"To hold a team to 32 percent and 72 points in an NBA game no matter who you're playing, you're doing something right on that end of the floor," said Mike Brown. "The focus, energy and effort and that communication and trust we brought defensively was exciting to see."
Thursday night's game against New York will be the team's last without Bynum, who's set to return on Saturday against Denver. When he does, stabilizing the middle, M&M will draw even less attention on that weak side once they check in off the bench, which could prove to be even better for Brown and the Lakers.