NBA: Lakers in familiar territory with Bynum on the sidelines
By Mark Heisler
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — If it’s spring, the Los Angeles Lakers must be waiting for Andrew Bynum, as they’re now resigned to doing for the third season in a row.
Who knows, maybe some day they’ll find him!
As home stands go, this one was uneventful, give or take the loss of their seven-foot starting center, running their winning streak to six games, however unimpressively, blowing 21 points of their 28-point lead and beating the hapless Washington Wizards by just 99-92.
Showing the urgency everyone realizes the Lakers need, the fans were on their feet in the closing minutes as the Wizards closed to within eight points, cheering for... tacos.
The Lakers, themselves, have talked a lot recently about their lack of urgency.
Sometimes they even played like it but just when they started making headway, especially on the key issue of Bynum and Pau Gasol playing together, there went half of tandem.
In the good news for the Lakers, Bynum lasted longer than he had the last two seasons, when he was hurt in January.
In the bad news for the Lakers, they didn’t get him back at all in 2008, never really got him up and running in 2009 and, with the playoffs less than a month off, have no idea how much time they’ll have to try to get him back this time.
“We really have nothing definitive about it,” said Jackson of Bynum’s injury before the game.
“It’s not a ruptured Achilles, it’s a strain but we don’t know exactly how this therapy’s going to come out. We’re going to take him on the road with us in the hopes he can get back.
The best thing that I heard today was that he felt better from day one to day two (of his rebab)....
“I don’t think the playoffs happened for him (last season. A lot of it was the teams he played against.... Utah went small and they have the luxury of a three-point shooting center in (Memo) Okur.... Houston was a team that went small.... Denver was another speed team.
“It wasn’t until we hit Orlando where he really had the same type of player in (Dwight) Howard, and Howard’s just a handful to handle regardless. So (Bynum) was in constant foul trouble in the Finals.”
Oh, and Phil benched him in the post-seasont time and Andrew didn’t like it. And then Andrew’s agent, David Lee, took his other Laker client, Trevor Ariza, to Houston for the same money the Lakers offered.
Aside from that, there were no serious consequences. The Lakers won the title, even with Bynum averaging 6.3 points in the post-season. Andrew came back strong and can now count Jackson among his most loyal defenders.
When Andrew comes back, anyway.
The Lakers are presumably taking him on the upcoming trip so his rehab can be monitored by Head Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti, Director of Athletic Performance Chip Schaefer and Athletic Performance Coordinator Alex McKechnie.
Or maybe the Lakers just want Andrew with them so they can pray over his right ankle.
This whole process is actually constructive for the Lakers, who had much bigger heads a year ago, when Houston almost lopped them off in the second round.
“If you look at last year, we felt like we were playing better at this time of year,” said Derek Fisher.
“We had the best road record in the NBA. We were looking great going into the post-season but then you look up in the second round and you’re on the brink of elimination....
“Some of this is our own doing in terms of not doing things that get us there. Some of it, just at the wrong time, it seems like we lose Kobe for five or six games... and most recently, losing Andrew.
“We aren’t using any excuses. We’re still holding ourselves accountable. We don’t like the way we’re playing but I’ll take the wins, as ugly as they are.
“Let’s just continue to win games and we’ll figure out the way they’re supposed to look as we go.”
Well, that’s one way to look at it. Playing harder longer would be another.