Andrew Bynum had found his rhythm. He had become a dominant force on the inside. He had acquired five double doubles in five straight games. His impact was exactly what the L.A. Lakers needed.
Then he went and hurt his knee.
This is not to say that without Bynum, the Lakers will flounder. Don't forget about the silver-medal-winning Spaniard Pau Gasol, or the greatest closer in the NBA in Kobe Bryant, or the biggest X-factor in the league, Lamar Odom.
Yeah, the Lakers are going to be okay.
But the current long road trip is now significantly more difficult. This is a road trip that ends with Cleveland and the little green men in Boston. If I were the rest of the Western Conference teams, I'd be thinking that this is the time to step up.
Even if the Lakers were to go 2-2 in the next four games, they would still hold a significant lead in the Pacific division and be atop in the Western Conference. But this is still the time to make a move in the standings.
The Lakers have played the most home games during the regular season up to this point, which means that the end of the season will be littered with road games, including another seven-game, 11-day road trip at the end of March.
Yes, the last 36 games are going to be a rough stretch, with 22 of them being on the road and six at the end of back-to-backs. That's a schedule I don't think any team wants to play.
Without Bynum, the Lakers are a little more vulnerable under the basket. But if Lamar and Pau keep stepping up their All-Star caliber play, this road trip and the following games should not be too difficult.
At this point in the season, it would be good for Phil Jackson to keep starting big in the starting lineup. I would like to see Fisher at the 1, Bryant at the 2, Rodmonovich at the 3, Odom at the 4, and Gasol at the 5. This was the championship lineup and it seemed to work pretty well.
However, any guess at who will be in the starting lineup is just that, a wild guess. Jackson is notorious for sending out crazy units that surprise even the Laker squad. But as he has nine championship rings, I won't criticize.
There is no further report on the MRI on Bynum's knee as of Monday afternoon, so I don't want to keep up the what-if statements, but suffice it to say now is the time for other teams to hit the court hard to make up lost ground against the hot Laker squad.
Of course, this is the same team that went to the finals without Bynum last year, the team that is still the best in the West.