But like the run that resulted in the championship last June, the Lakers again are without their starting center.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced Thursday that center Andrew Bynum would more than likely miss all of training camp due to his recovery from knee surgery.
The operation to fix his injured knee was performed on July 28 and doctors discovered more damage than expected. This resulted in a longer healing period than the originally stated two months.
Why does this matter? Because Bynum waited until over a month after winning the title before he got the operation. His plan was two quick months of recovery in time for Lakers camp.
But he was wrong. And, because he waited, instead going to the World Cup matches in South Africa before returning for the surgery, he costs his team once again.
Let’s be crystal clear. The Lakers repeated last year as champs because they have weapons that no other team possesses. In no particular order, LA has Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, the triangle offense, and length.
The last reason is the most striking. The Lakers have more talent with height than anyone else in the league. When Andrew Bynum is healthy, the Lakers are superior to every other team.
But the key word in that last sentence was a healthy Bynum. He is that important to the team. And, he knows this. So do the Lakers, who are paying him more than Lamar Odom and Ron Artest, two proven players.
However, Bynum has yet to play a full season. Sure you can say he’s had back luck, freakish injuries. And, you’re right. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire and Bynum is “el fuego” (that’s Spanish for “on fire”.) Right now, Bynum’s a California forest fire with Santa Ana winds blowing.
He displayed both inexperience and immaturity with not having the surgery right after last season ended. He’s on a team of players that sacrifice and he failed to hold up his end of the agreement.
So, the real question is this: Is it time to give up on Andrew Bynum and trade him once he returns?
I’m serious. I can’t even believe I wrote those words because I’m a big Andrew Bynum proponent. Because with him in the lineup, with his skills, height and length, he makes the Lakers more than what they already are.
But, he has to be in the lineup. So, the foundation is cracking on the Lakers’ future. Is Bynum really the player to count on for the next ten years?
I can’t say a solid “yes” anymore. Now, it’s moved to more of a “maybe.” Now, for me, Bynum would have to return fully from this new injury and play this entire 2010-2011 season for me to be back completely in his corner.
Right now, the door is cracked. It may be worth the Lakers now considering trading him. Sure, he has to come back from the surgery and be healthy to even be trade bait. But, he will. He’s young. He’s proven he can recover, he just hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy.
There would be all kinds of options and takers if the Lakers really swing that door wide and decide to put Bynum on the blocks.
The list and possibilities could be endless. And, now, with the future again cracked, the Lakers might not even have to get equal value at the center position.
And, that would be okay. Instead, could we say Carmelo Anthony? Chris Paul?
Of course, the Lakers trading Bynum would be a loss in the superior assets department of height and length. But think about this. When Bynum is on the bench and hurt, he doesn’t add that length anyway.
The Lakers dodged a bullet last Finals when the Boston Celtic’s Kendrick Perkins went down. That’s because Bynum was already out. That only evened things at the center position.
But remember in 2008, with no Bynum and a healthy Perkins, the Celts brutalized the Lakers inside. And, for 2010, Boston added more height, even if it is an old Shaq coming off their bench.
So, I’m the first one to know it would be nice, if not required, to head into next year’s playoffs with Bynum. That’s almost a must, at least against Boston.
But, can we count on him to be there? We couldn't count on him getting surgery right away. We couldn’t count on him for training camp.
So, I ask, could it be time to at least consider trading Bynum?