April 12, 2012
When a lot of people look at the Los Angeles Lakers, they are quick to say that Kobe Bryant is the guy that makes this team go and is also the unquestioned leader. That’s hard to argue when you consider that we’re talking about a guy who has five NBA championships and leads the NBA in scoring. So yes, Bryant is the guy that will hear the MVP chants, but most important player for the Lakers to make that playoff run and for Bryant to get that desperately wanted 6th ring is center Andrew Bynum. Here’s my arguments, both positive and negative, on why Bynum holds the key to the Lakers’ success in the playoffs. The domination that Bynum can show at times was on full display in the Lakers’ 98-84 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night in the Alamo City. With the Lakers playing without Bryant, who sat out his third straight game to rest a shin injury, Bynum stepped up with a 16 point, 30 rebound performance (yes, 30 rebounds). Bynum, when motivated and focused, has the potential to be one of the most dominate players in the league and can help the Lakers actually represent the Western Conference in the upcoming NBA Finals (I still like the Oklahoma City Thunder to be in the NBA Finals, but the West has a lot of teams that are capable of making that run to the Finals). He’s played his best ball against the better teams in the league (36 points and 8 rebounds in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers and 37 points and 16 rebounds in a victory over the Memphis Grizzles) and he has career highs in points and rebounds per game (18.4 and 12.2, respectively, and 2.0 blocks per game). More importantly, he’s stayed healthy in a year that injuries have been quite common. We all know how injury-prone Bynum has been in his career, so it’s good to see him finally stay healthy. On the same token, Bynum has shown that he can be a chemistry problem as well. He missed the first four games of this year because of the flagrant foul he committed on Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (now a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves) in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals last year, in which the Lakers were swept 4-0 by the Mavericks. Bynum has also been ejected from two games, both losses to the Houston Rockets, for picking up pointless technical fouls. At times, Bynum looks disinterested on the court and has shown moments of laziness and disrespect for authority. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Bynum’s actions lead to the Lakers losing crucial games. Bottom line is this. You know what your going to get out of Bryant and on most nights you know what you’re going to get from forward Pau Gasol. Those two players are proven and pretty consistent with their efforts. But Bynum is clearly the X-factor and is the guy who can determine whether the Lakers have an early exit from the playoffs or make it to the NBA Finals. He is a young, talented player with a world of ability (he’s only 24 years old) and you can leave him in the game in the clutch because he can knock down free throws (he’s around 70 percent, 68.4 to be exact, which is good for a big man and is way better than Magic center Dwight Howard’s 49.1 percent from the foul line). But he can check out of games mentally and be a distraction in the locker room all the same. It just depends on the night and which Bynum shows up. If you’re a Lakers fan, you hope to get the good Andrew Bynum. If so, the sky is the limit for the Lakers.
By Charles Taylor