Andrew Bynum's Injury To Cripple Still-Hot Lakers' Chances?

Marcus WilliamsContributor IFebruary 3, 2009

As soon as Andrew Bynum started playing like a player given $58 million, which he received in his contract extension last October, he suffered yet another knee injury.

This year's side liner is reminiscent to the injury Bynum sustained last year, playing against the same team—the Memphis Grizzlies—but, the injury on Saturday was to his right knee instead of his left.

So, once again the Los Angeles Lakers center will miss eight to 12 weeks after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his right knee,which means the big man is out of commission for the rest of the regular season .

Are the Lakers still the favorites now that Bynum went down?

Consider the chance Bynum doesn't make it back for the playoffs, and he sits out for the rest of the season. Last year, the Lakers initially said that Bynum would make it back for the end of the playoffs, and he ended up not getting back on the court at all.

When Bynum went out last season, the Lakers were the No. 3 team in the Western Conference before climbing into first place, ultimately ending up in the Finals, where L.A. fell to the Boston Celtics.

This year, the conference looks nowhere as strong as it did a year ago.

Actually the whole conference looks a lot weaker when you compare it to the Celtics, Magic, and Cav's of the East. The only threat the Lakers have in the West is the always consistent San Antonio Spurs.

With a great coach, great system, and enough experience to quadruple that of the young, talented Trail Blazers, the Spurs are the only team that has what it takes to the beat the Lakers.

When you look at the other possible playoff teams in the West, none of them seem to have improved very much from last year.

Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and Denver—none of them come close to matching up with the defending Western Conference champs, who still have two world-class athletes in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

Has everybody forgotten that the Lakers still have the best player in the world on their team?

OK, so Kobe's not scoring as much as he has in past years, but he has his team playing at a very high, championship level—that's what great players do.

Taking on the streaking Knicks, who had won three in a row before Monday's showdown at the Garden, it seemed Kobe had the perfect answer to everybody's question.

What will the Lakers do without Andrew Bynum?

Well, Kobe Bryant scored 61 points while Pau Gasol added 31 points and 14 rebounds in the Lakers' 126-117 victory over the Knicks.

Don't be surprised if this becomes the norm for the Lakers star shooting guard throughout the rest of the regular season, taking it upon himself to deliver give the Lakers the top spot in the conference, especially since it was Kobe who fell on Bynum's knee, possibly dampening the Lakers' shot at winning another NBA title.

Sorry to all the other fans and teams in the Western Conference, but as of now, no team in the West possesses a threat to the "Bynum-less" Lakers besides the San Antonio Spurs.

Look for the Lakers to remain the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs, if they're able to stay healthy.

As it relates to Bynum possibly missing the rest of the regular season and playoffs, listen to New York Knicks celebrity fan Spike Lee, who says, "Don't believe the Hype."