Friday, January 18, 2008
Andrew Bynum Withdrawl
There's a reason Lakers Nation moaned when Bynumite went down with a knee injury Sunday night, the timetable for his return estimated at 8 weeks. His name is Kwame Brown.
Hey, Kwame is what he is: a big body and a good low-post defender. But that's it. I repeat: That's it. He has no offensive skill to speak of and the worst hands in the league. He probably shouldn't be starting in the NBA. Nothing personal.
Of course, now he's been nudged back into the spotlight after spending the beginning of the season as an afterthought. And his flaws are under the microscope. A big microscope in the wake of Bynum.
Drew was averaging 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks on 64 percent shooting before he went down, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Bynum finishes everything around the basket with dunks, he's got the softest hands in the league, and nobody completes more alley-oops (there are few moves in basketball more unstoppable than a lob to Andrew Bynum). His combination of size, length, and athleticism is surpassed only by Dwight Howard, he's ferociously aggressive, and he's got a developing low-post game. For the first time since Shaq left, the Lakers have a big man that forces the defense to react when he catches the ball on the block. He's borderline unstoppable.
In other words, he's the anti-Kwame Brown. The Lakers should never throw Kwame the ball. When they do, defenses react with glee. During a memorable eight-minute stretch at the start of the second half against Phoenix last night, Kwame missed a dunk and a layup and committed four of his seven turnovers, as his home crowd booed him mercilessly. (He only played 25 minutes - how does a center turn the ball over seven times in only 25 minutes? That may be unprecedented.) A comedy of errors. Terrible, just terrible. Sad, even. It sucks to be Kwame Brown right now. He's going to be on a very short leash (maybe no leash at all) with the L.A. (un)faithful at every home game he plays for the next two months, and Barkley's going to be laughing at him every Thursday on TNT. I feel sorry for the guy. I bet he can't wait for Andrew to come back, either.
Of course, Bynum's injury did more to hurt this team than just guarantee Kwame more playing time. Bynum had entrenched himself pretty firmly into the No. 2 spot in the Lakers' heirarchy, meaning that Lamar Odom had settled nicely into the No. 3 role that better suits him. For all of his considerable gifts, Odom was never going to live up to being the Pippen to Kobe's MJ, and with Bynum's explosion to stardom, he no longer has to worry about that. I had always lamented Odom's inability to become the player we were hoping for when he arrived here four years ago, but this year I had almost forgotten about him, which is probably the way he likes it. In years past, Odom has played his very best basketball when Kobe was out, but other than that, he just plays the same. His temporary move back upward in the Lake Show pecking order isn't going to urge him to step it up any (although he did have a strong 19 and 19 last night).
So once again, it all falls on Kobe. I'm a diehard Lakers fan, so my heart tells me he's going to spring for 40 a game over the next 30 games or so, keep the Lakers near the top of the standings, and solidify his first MVP in the process. My head looks at the schedule and sees that Denver, San Antonio, Dallas, a Cleveland team that's coming together, and Detroit are five of their next six opponents, and that 11 of their next 14 before the All-Star Break are on the road (including 9 in a row). I see a team that may be on the verge of losing it's balance.
But you know what? Screw it. We still got Kobe, Farmar and Sasha bring punch off the bench, and Fish is 10-times more reliable than Smush Parker was, making the current Lakers team, sans Bynum, a deeper, steadier version of the 2006 team than won 45 games and nearly upset a 54-win Phoenix team in the first round. They're going to be fine. I'm going to repeat that last sentence to myself 1,000 times every night before I go to sleep, until I really believe it.