Bynum Out at Least Eight Weeks, Possibly Until the PlayoffsAndrew Bynum is not expected to need surgery but the grim news that the L.A. Lakers received is certainly bad enough: their young starting center will be sidelined for eight to 12 weeks due to a torn MCL in his right knee. That timetable means that he will likely miss at least 27 of the Lakers' final 36 games and that he may not return to action until the playoffs begin. At almost exactly this time last season, Bynum suffered a more serious injury to his left knee. That injury ultimately required surgery and forced him to miss the rest of the regular season and all of the playoffs.
The Lakers have been a dominant team at times this season with Bynum at center and All-Star Pau Gasol at power forward but it is important to remember that last season the Lakers clinched the best record in the West and made it all the way to the NBA Finals with Gasol starting at center and Lamar Odom starting at power forward, the lineup that the Lakers will be using now that Bynum is out. Gasol has had the opportunity to go through a complete training camp with the Lakers and is playing the best basketball of his career. Also, Gasol, Odom and several other Lakers got their first taste of what it is like to have an extended playoff run, so this time around they should be even better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead, a point that 2008 MVP Kobe Bryant emphasized after hearing the news about Bynum: "I think having Andrew in the lineup makes us a very dominant team. [With] him out of the lineup, we're still a great team. You put him in the mix and it takes us to another level."
Odom has gone through his ups and downs coming off of the bench but now that he will be a starter again his focus and production will likely improve; Coach Phil Jackson correctly understood that a Bynum-Gasol-Odom frontcourt is not feasible because Odom cannot play small forward for 82 games--which is something that I wrote last summer but many so-called "experts" did not understand or predict--but we saw last year that Gasol and Odom have good chemistry, particularly when Bryant and Gasol run screen/roll actions and Odom dives to the hoop from the weak side or cuts to the free throw line to receive a pass after Bryant is trapped.
The Lakers can certainly continue to be successful with their new lineup but the offseason depature of Ronny Turiaf means that if Gasol or Odom gets hurt they will be in more trouble than they would have faced last year in a similar circumstance.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:42 PM