For the last six games, Carl Landry has come off the bench for the Kings. That follows, since last February, 42 straight games as the team's starter at power forward. But Landry certainly had plenty of experience as a bench player in Houston; he was a top candidate for Sixth Man of the Year before last season's trade with the Rockets, and was an integral part of some good Houston teams before that.
It hasn't exactly worked out very well the last few weeks. Landry has looked at times unsure, and occasionally even frustrated with his performance, maybe his role. We've never seen Landry look like this in the NBA. In Houston, he knew what was needed of him, and he executed. Last season, he never showed hesitation on either end, even as he learned a new system and new teammates on the fly.
But this bench move has him all sort of twisted up. In six games off the bench, Landry is averaging 6.3 points and 2.2 rebounds in 20.8 minutes while shooting 37 percent. As a starter, though underwhelming, he's been better: 14.4 points, 5.8 rebounds in 30.7 minutes while shooting 48 percent.
Again: his performance as a starter this season has been underwhelming. But off the bench, he's been much worse: he's scoring about a third less frequently per-minute, rebounding half as frequently and shooting much, much worse.
He's currently averaging 10 points and 3.8 rebounds per 36 minutes off the bench this season. In 51 games off the Houston bench a year ago, Landry averaged 21.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per 36. Is he really half the player he was last year?
Let's assume not; Hot Carl is only 27 years old, after all, with just 5,000 minutes on his NBA treads. (Chris Bosh, who is still 26 years old, has almost 20,000 minutes under his belt, for comparison's sake.) So what gives? What could be wrong with Carl Landry?
* Injury. Our bench sample size is small and recent. Landry injured his back just before the Bulls game, which was his first non-start of the season. If he's had continued trouble with the injury, that could help explain the bad production. There hasn't been much talk about Landry's back since then, but it's something to keep in mind.
* Adjustment time. Moving from a big-minutes, major-role spot in the starting five to a less-minutes, undetermined-role spot off the bench might need some adjustment. Landry has never come off the bench in Paul Westphal's system. Certainly, many of us remember Rick Adelman's iron-tight rotations, where the 6-8 players had just as consistent a role as the 1-5. That's simply not the case with Westphal, for better or worse. Does Landry just need more time to find his new role off the bench? It's possible.
* Discomfort with the role. This is different from needing time to adjust: maybe Landry's just not comfortable in the role on this team. I'm not blaming his ego -- he's a selfless dude with a winning attitude, from everything I've seen, heard and read -- but his game. Off the bench this season, he averaged 0.28 field goal attempts per minute. As a starter, he averaged 0.38 FGAs per minute. That's a big difference: a shot every 3.5 minutes versus every 2.5 game minutes. Last year off the bench with Houston, he was on 0.39 FGAs per minute, similar to as a starter here. Perhaps on this team a bench role doesn't provide enough shots to make Landry productive -- he is, after all, a scorer first and foremost.
Whatever the case, given that Landry was believed to be Sacramento's second most talented player, the Kings desperately need him to find his way.