While Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are the stars of the Los Angeles Lakers, Bynum is the difference maker that sets the team apart from the other 29 franchises in the NBA. In short, Andrew Bynum is the key to the Lakers winning a third championship in a row.
Understandably, many Lakers fans are upset about the recent news regarding Bynum.
Over the offseason, he had right knee surgery on July 28 to repair an injury that occurred during the NBA playoffs.
Due to a recent setback of about four weeks, Andrew Bynum remarked about his return to playing as he said, “I see more towards the end of November. The doctors are telling me this could be somewhere around there. There’s no exact date.”
Many fans are upset about Bynum missing action during the season for the fourth consecutive year since he, presumably, could have had the surgery right after the end of the Finals series. However, Andrew Bynum had the blessing from both coach Phil Jackson and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak to have the surgery on July 18.
This would allow Bynum to have a short vacation and go to the World Cup—something they thought he deserved after his dedication and hard work during the playoffs.
After this target date was set, Bynum’s doctor had to push back the date to July 28 due to some scheduling conflicts.
While fans have a right to be upset regarding this news, the blame cannot be entirely placed upon Bynum. Most people are able to take a few weeks off from work each year to go on vacation and clearly some of the circumstances regarding the setback were not entirely in his control.
Yet, Lakers fans have some reasons to show some optimism regarding Andrew’s setback by recognizing the silver lining of the situation.
For starters, let’s assume that Bynum misses all of October and November. This would amount to 18 games—10 home and 8 away matches.
Although it would be helpful if the Lakers had a healthy Bynum against these teams, nearly every fan would acknowledge that it is more important to have Bynum in top form in the playoffs than in the early part of the season.
When Andrew Bynum returns, Phil Jackson is likely to split the 96 minutes at the power forward and center positions roughly equally between Bynum, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol.
With Bynum’s absence, some opportunities arise for the Lakers’ new and improved bench.
Theo Ratliff is a veteran player who can help hold down the fort until Bynum returns. Ratliff has twice been named to the All-Defensive Second Team and has a career average of 2.4 blocks per game.
The Lakers have plenty of scoring options on the team, so all Ratliff truly needs to do is rebound and protect the basket. Needless to say, Ratliff is more than capable of fulfilling this role for 20 to 25 minutes per game for the first month or two.
Derrick Caracter will also have the ability to get some extra playing time and learn the intricacies of the triangle offense. After stellar summer league performances, Caracter has the potential to be a great NBA player. Bynum’s absence will allow Caracter’s game to develop more quickly.
Another player that might benefit is Lamar Odom.
Being a player that routinely gets out of shape during the offseason, Odom rebuilt his playing stamina as a leader of Team USA in the FIBA World Championship Tournament in Turkey this summer.
Phil Jackson recently commented about Odom’s conditioning taking a back step following the FIBA tournament. With some available playing minutes likely to come Odom’s way, he should be able to get into top form more quickly this season.
Last year, the bench was prone to giving up big leads built by the starters. With a deeper bench, LA should be able to rely less on its starters this year.
The team still has arguably three of the best perimeter defenders in Bryant, Ron Artest, and Matt Barnes to go along with the strong interior defense of Gasol, Odom, and Ratliff.
Not only will the triangle offense be run more fluidly with the departure of Jordan Farmar and the addition of Steve Blake, but the Lakers should be even more dominant on defense this year.
The Lakers also have a break in the team’s early schedule as there are no matchups against many of the likely top teams in the league (including Boston, Orlando, Miami, Oklahoma City, Dallas, and San Antonio). Hence, it is not unreasonable to predict LA winning 12 or 13 games through the end of November.
If Los Angeles can win 75 percent of the remaining games, then the Lakers should win at least 60 games this upcoming season. When both Gasol and Bryant have played together over the past two and a half seasons, the team has won nearly 80 percent of its games.
With that under consideration, this prediction may not be so far-fetched.
In the grand scheme of things, it appears that the Los Angeles Lakers will be alright. Phil Jackson will be able to pace his team for the playoffs, new players will get additional opportunities to play and learn the team’s sets, and the Lakers should be able to maintain a decent winning percentage.
All fans can truly ask for is that Andrew Bynum comes back healthy. Then, the team can make a strong run towards a three-peat.