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Monday, February 02, 2009

Bynum Out at Least Eight Weeks, Possibly Until the Playoffs

Andrew 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.

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:42 PM

6 comments

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6 Comments:

At Monday, February 02, 2009 6:44:00 PM, Anonymous warsaw said...

I gave up with Mihm long time ago, but...

What's your opinion about Powell?

Useful for at least 10 minutes per game?

 
At Monday, February 02, 2009 7:57:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Warsaw:

Powell has done OK in limited minutes (mainly garbage time) this season and I think that he is an improving player but I'm not sure if he is quite ready to be a regular part of the rotation in non-garbage time minutes. Without Turiaf this season and with Bynum on the shelf, the Lakers may end up using a small lineup more frequently, shifting Kobe to small forward.

 
At Monday, February 02, 2009 10:55:00 PM, Blogger FreeCashFlow said...

It will be hard to deny the greatness of Kobe Bryant after his latest 61 point outburst at Madison Square Garden ... but it will be funny to see people still try! "Kobe didn't get any rebounds!" "It was the Knicks!" and other variations I can't even imagine.

 
At Monday, February 02, 2009 11:23:00 PM, Anonymous Aqzi said...

David:

I've noticed that generally amongst the media, the Lakers are labeled soft (most notably, of course, Pau Gasol). However, in the blogosphere, the general consensus among Lakers blogs is that the Lakers are far from soft and anyone who calls them soft is just finding an excuse for a recent loss.

Especially given Andrew's injury, what are your thoughts? Are the Laker bloggers right or are they just defending their team?

Aqzi

 
At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 2:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Aqzi:

I would define "soft" in a basketball context as a player or team who lacks the mental toughness/psychological resolve necessary to prevail against a good opponent who offers a lot of resistance. Gasol and several other Lakers played "soft" in the 2008 Finals because they backed down from the Celtics and let Boston dominate the paint at both ends of the court, neither setting good screens nor fighting through the screens that the Celtics set. Gasol and Odom wanted no part of battling with Garnett, Perkins, Powe et. al.

Gasol's game is a finesse, skill based game and that is fine but as a seven footer there are times that he has to stake a claim to the paint and not back down--not by flexing his muscles or screaming but simply by playing with authority: no fadeaway shots, no soft screens, no flip shots at the rim instead of dunks.

I think that a lack of toughness has been a problem for the Lakers, not only against the Celtics last year as described above but also in terms of losing to some lesser teams and allowing teams to come back from big deficits (sometimes the Lakers win anyway but the Celtics and Cavs have tended to stomp on people when they are down, while the Lakers often have to bring Kobe back in the fourth quarter to put out some brush fires).

The Lakers are never going to be as physical or defensive minded as the Celtics and Cavs but they can still beat those teams if they have the right mindset in terms of toughness: Phil Jackson's Bulls' teams were finesse oriented squads for the most part but because of their mental toughness they were able to beat more physical teams like the Pistons and Knicks.

 
At Tuesday, February 03, 2009 2:46:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Free Cash Flow:

Critics and haters will say stupid things no matter what but real aficionados of the game appreciate Kobe's greatness: that is why the Knicks' fans gave him such an ovation and why Kobe is so popular in China, where the people could care less about the spin that the U.S. media puts out--the Chinese people just look at Kobe as a great basketball player who should be respected for his finely honed skills.

 

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