Andrew Bynum Can Be the Lakers Next Star, If Kobe Bryant Lets Him
There are several variables that can be factored into the Los Angeles Lakers New Year's Day loss to the Denver Nuggets, but the most telling may be found in these numbers, 6-28 for 16 points, and 7-12 for 18 points.
Those statistics represent what guard Kobe Bryant and center Andrew Bynum shot from the field and what they scored respectively, and in my opinion, they are the biggest reason the Lakers lost their instant re-match to the Nuggets.
Bryant did become only the sixth player in NBA history to record 28,000 points and the youngest to do it, but that accomplishment may be overshadowed by the manner in which the league's most notorious gunner shot the Lakers out of the game.
It was clear from the opening tip that Bryant's focus on this night would be improving on his 6-18 shooting performance from the Lakers 92-89 victory over the Nuggets the previous evening, but the New Year's Eve game was much more efficient in hindsight.
Bryant only scored one more point in that game, but he also recorded 10 rebounds and nine assists, while taking a backseat to a much more dominant Bynum.
Bynum had 29 points and 13 rebounds on 13-18 shooting from the field in his first game back from suspension, and it was clear the Nuggets didn't have an answer for him in the paint.
Denver had a player who could match Bynum's size in Timofey Mozgov, and maybe his skill in Nene, but neither player could guard Bynum alone.
And when Denver did attempt to double-team Bynum, forward Pau Gasol found himself with more open looks at the basket in two games than he has seen all season.
In those two games, Bynum and Gasol went a combined 35-65 from the floor while scoring 74 points, and Bryant shot 12-46 from the field with 33 points.
Anyone who was watching either game understands that Bryant was most likely just having an off night, but the bigger question is did Bryant realize that himself?
Bryant's near triple-double in the first game suggests he did, but how do you explain his two rebound, four assist performance in game two?
The Lakers are obviously a different team with Bynum on the court, but they also look like a better team when Bynum is the focal point of Mike Brown's motion offense.
The trick is getting Bryant to acknowledge and accept this concept.
Phil Jackson's triangle offense is history, and so is the need for Bryant to attempt to shoot the Lakers out of any situation.
Brown has made it a priority to feed Bynum the ball at every possible instance, and for the first time in his career Bynum looks ready to accept that responsibility.
When Bynum received the ball in scoring position he looked virtually un-guardable, and when the double-teams did come, Bynum was able to find open teammates, mainly Gasol.
Gasol's return to All-Star form can unquestionably be attributed to Bynum's presence in the paint, and maybe it's time for Kobe to understand this.
The Lakers have an outside chance to reach the 2012 NBA Finals with this roster, but only if they utilize the one advantage that no other team in the league can match.
The size and skill of Bynum could potentially carry the Lakers far into the postseason if he manages to stay healthy, but only if Kobe will allow it.
I'm sure there is some pride involved when it comes to Bryant realizing that he may no longer be the Lakers' primary offensive option, but as the saying goes, "pride goes before a fall."
In order for the Lakers to maximize their potential, Bryant may have to put his pride aside and let Bynum shoulder as much of the load as his fragile knees will allow.
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