Andrew Bynum Still The Lakers' X-Factor
Whenever I try to explain the importance of Andrew Bynum to my anti-Lakers friends, I am chastised as a basketball illiterate.
“It’s all the Gasol trade,” they’ll remind me, or “Kobe has become a better team player.” Those are the reasons the Lakers are once again in the limelight of basketball’s main stage.
But I stand my ground. Andrew Bynum is still the Lakers x-Factor, pure and simple.
I was sold on Bynum when he first came to the Lakers as a 17-year-old, the youngest player to enter the league ever. In fact, Bynum was involved in one of the most exciting series of plays I have ever seen.
It was January 2006, and the Lakers were playing host to the Miami Heat during their Shaq days. Bynum was guarding Shaq in the low post and, after a missed shot, was – for lack of a better description – given a facial by the Diesel, who threw down a merciless dunk over the back of Bynum.
Picking himself off the court, Bynum raced down the floor and caught the ball in the low block on the next possession, make a slight hesitation move, and threw one right back at Shaq.
I couldn’t stop yelling.
Check it out for yourself:
From that day on, I was a Bynum fanatic. True, he went to the World Cup this summer in South Africa instead of getting surgery on his knee. True, he has way too many sports cars and loves to take pictures with Playboy bunnies on his shoulders.
But who doesn’t?
Look, we all know that Bynum cannot play a whole season. But, unlike other young big men in the league who have virtually destroyed their careers by improper rehabilitation – Greg Oden comes to mind – Bynum seems to always come back just when the Lakers need him.
Although he did not play in the 2008-09 playoffs until Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Bynum’s size and sustained energy bothered Dwight Howard for the entire series. If Pau was forced to guard Howard the entire series, I think we would have had a different outcome.
What Bynum brings to the Lakers is a 7-foot-1, 285-pound frame and the capability to defend and score against the NBA’s most physical centers.
Having Bynum in the lineup also allows Lamar Odom to come off the bench. With the way the Lakers' bench is playing so far this season, adding Odom to the rotation will make them unstoppable.
What surprises me is the perception that Bynum will come off the bench when he returns.
Sure, maybe he'll play a reserve role when he’s just getting back. But Bynum is the starter, and establishing him as a presence in the low post is an incredible advantage for the Lakers.
Inserting Bynum into the starting lineup places Gasol at the "4," making him a nightmare for nearly every team in the league to guard. I can only name one power forward capable of guarding him both in the low- and mid-post: a healthy Kevin Garnett.
There’s no doubt that the now 22-year-old Bynum will have to step up his game if he wants to reclaim the starting spot from Odom. Lamar’s game has elevated dramatically after his work in the summer with Team USA. However, Bynum has showed time and again he's capable of coming back from injury and taking on starter's minutes.
With Bynum at center, Gasol at his natural power forward spot and Odom coming off the bench, the Lakers have the most formidable frontcourt in the league.
Bynum is L.A.’s behemoth inside. As long as he can stay healthy through the playoffs, I can’t see anyone stopping the Lake Show from taking three in a row.
Can't wait for you to be back, big fella.
I'm calling Christmas.