Top 6th men star in intriguing bench battle

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom won the award Jason Terry vowed to reclaim. Now the Dallas Mavericks' top reserve has the chance to show who the most valuable sixth man really is in a battle of the benches that includes some juicy subplots.

Odom ran away with Sixth Man of the Year voting after averaging 14.4 points on 53 percent shooting, plus 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Terry, the 2008-09 winner, finished a distant second after averaging 15.8 points and 4.1 assists.

In the first-round series, Terry averaged 17.3 points in 33.2 minutes -- 21.0 points in the final four games -- to lead a four-man bench that includes point guard J.J. Barea (5.2 ppg, 2.5 apg), forward Peja Stojakovic (9.5) and 7-foot center Brendan Haywood (2.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg). The reserves averaged a heady 34.5 points in the six games and outscored the Portland Trail Blazers' bench 207-125.

"I thought Terry's scoring was absolutely essential to us," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "But, he defended well and his floor game was good."

Odom averaged 12.0 points in six games against the New Orleans Hornets, and despite seeing his playing time drop by more than three minutes from the regular season, his scoring still doubled that of the next closest reserve, guard Shannon Brown (5.8). Phil Jackson has used a four-man bench that averaged 23.7 points against the Hornets -- but is not needed to provide as much scoring boost as the Mavs' bench -- and also includes pesky guard Steve Blake (2.4 ppg, 3.2 apg) and agitating forward Matt Barnes (3.8, both of whom might have a bone to pick with the Jet.

In the last meeting in Los Angeles on March 31, a 110-82 Lakers romp that at the time seemed like a statement victory with the teams on a collision course for the second round, Terry shoved Blake and drew a flagrant foul and was ejected. Barnes then got in Terry's face and was also tossed. Haywood was close to the fray and he got the hook, although it's still not clear what prompted his ejection.

The next day th e incident evolved into an entertaining war of words with Terry going on a national ESPN Radio talk show and unflatteringly referred to the heavily tattooed Barnes as "The Charminator."

"That is a guy who is as soft as Charmin toilet paper," Terry explained.

Barnes then took to his Twitter feed and fired back, reminding folks of the Warriors' first-round upset of the Mavs in 2007: "Me & the Golden St homies laid out the blueprint on how to beat Dallas.. "PUNK'EM" Aint [expletive] changed homey.. So enough w/the small talk"

Aside from the obvious shenanigans that could be coming with some colorful personalities, the more subdued Haywood will play perhaps the most critical bench role outside of Terry. Just as he helped starting center Tyson Chandler keep a fresh, big body on LaMarcus Aldridge, which certainly seemed to grind on the Seagoville product over the six games, Haywood will have to provide solid defense and rebounding against the Lakers' 7-foot front line of forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum, as well as the 6-10 Odom.

"This team was built on the matchup against the Lakers," Terry said. "Obviously, they're the barometer. They set the bar and we're a team that's the underdog, obviously, in that series. Nobody's going to pick us to win, but it's going to be fun."

To say the least.