The Lakers happily welcome Pau Gasol back to the starting lineup on Friday against the Clippers. But all eyes that aren’t on the condition of Kobe Bryant’s back will be on center Andrew Bynum.
A popular topic for local sports talk radio is the question of why Andrew Byunum can’t seem to duplicate his double/double performances when Pau Gasol returns to the lineup.
A look at Bynum’s stats for the season reveal his best performances came without Gasol on the floor. He puts up 19 and 11 while not sharing the floor compared to his season average of 15 and 8. Former Lakers big man and now current team radio broadcaster, Mychal Thompson has observed the young center.
He has seen Bynum’s interest or attention flagging when Gasol is playing. Thompson has said: “I’ve seen Andrew not running full out on the breaks to get good low post position while on offense and his aggressiveness on the boards seems to go down as well.”
Thompson notes that Andrew stands flat-footed in some cases waiting for rebounds to find him and doesn’t box consistently as is necessary for big numbers off the boards. He goes on to say that Bynum’s got to learn to stay more engaged when he isn’t counted on as the sole presence down low.
Granted the kid is still developing and this season, coming off a full summer of working on his game without having to deal with recovery from a knee surgery he has ramped up his post moves.
He also has worked on his free throws and seen his percentage increase into the high 73% range, a full 10 percentage points higher than his career average.
The favorite line about the Lakers’ edge over other elite teams has been that they are so “long” with Lamar Odom becoming the third big man when one of the other two are taking a breather on the bench. Instead if seems that what should be their advantage becomes a liability for their starting center.
Phil Jackson is never shy about it and as early as his pre-training camp state of the team press conference said that one of the top priorities for this season was to integrate the games of Gasol and Bynum.
Because of Andrew’s two serious knee injuries in back-to-back seasons, his playing time with Pau has been limited. It’s time for the grand experiment to take off. Of course the rest of the NBA would kill for this problem so there should be no tears for Los Angeles.
Tonight’s game against the Clippers will also test the ability of Kobe Bryant to work through back spasms and the nagging finger injury that has seen him try various types of bandages and casts. Check out our Lakers Examiner, Colin Ward-Henninger for more on Kobe’s shooting woes.
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