Does someone want to remind the Lakers’ staff that they are in the NBA Playoffs?
This is not the exhibition season—though that may be the next stop for the Lakers should their season end abruptly.
And it is definitely in danger of ending abruptly, as long as the coaching staff continues to experiment with Andrew Bynum in the starting lineup.
Lamar Odom has proven his worth as a starter—and more importantly, as an NBA Playoff starter. Andrew Bynum has not.
Even in the regular season, the bulk of Bynum’s output came in December against mostly second-tier teams. It seems as though Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak are more interested in proving that the $50 million they paid Bynum was well spent.
Buss and Kupchak have to be at the root of this. I can’t believe that a Hall of Fame coach like Phil Jackson would insist on starting Bynum over a proven playoff talent like Lamar Odom.
Of course, both Buss and Kupchak look like a couple of bunglers, given that the only talent Bynum has displayed so far in the playoffs is one for pouting. He certainly didn’t put up any defense against Yao Ming.
Buss and Kupchak should have waited until the end of this season to make a deal with Bynum. His worth is now obviously far less than it was back in October. And I thought Buss was supposed to be a pretty shrewd poker player.
But up until this point, all Bynum has done besides pout is to prove Shaquille O’Neil right—Kobe Bryant can’t win a title without him. I wonder what kind of music video the big jokester will come out with this year.
Odom has had a difficult time bouncing back and forth between the bench and the starting lineup. Over the final month of the season, he is the one starter—not Bryant—who has kept the Lakers in games they might have blown.
When Odom starts, he is just as comfortable playing with the rotation players when they come in as he is playing with the other starters. But when he is not used in his role as a rotation player like he was back in November, Odom has difficulty finding a comfort level with the starters as well as the other bench players.
Pau Gasol also looks more comfortable with Odom in the lineup than he does playing in the power forward slot with Bynum in the middle. Even though that is Gasol’s natural position, he has simply not been able to adjust his defensive play and his offensive timing around Bynum.
It’s not any physical problem that Bynum has, but a mental one. He just looks slow on the court and indecisive. Odom, on the other hand, plays well with Gasol when he starts, and moves quickly and decisively.
Of course, the other problem with the Lakers’ second unit is that they sorely miss Luke Walton. I never thought I would say that. I could not imagine how this team could miss Luke Walton until now. His passing, his decision-making, his alignment, and especially his influence on second unit players is much more valuable than I had ever imagined.
If the Lakers hope to have a chance of gaining the upper hand on Houston, they had better hope that Walton makes a speedy recovery—and that Phil Jackson shelves the Bynum experiment until the exhibition season.