Lord knows at age 19 I was not ready for serious responsibility or anything that would have required a concerted work ethic â€” I was more focused on trying to figure out how to steal a bell off the old-school Taco Bell near my college campus, because I knew how cool that would look in my dorm.
But Andrew Bynum passed on his bell-stealing days to go straight to the NBA, and he has been thrust into a difficult position â€” be slowly developed into a cornerstone of a legendary franchise but, by the way, do it fast enough to overlap with Kobeâ€™s prime.
The questions about how fast â€” and how far â€” Bynum can develop remain unanswered. There certainly has been improvement, but can he give the Lakers 10-15 solid minutes a game next season? After this yearâ€™s Summer Pro League I said he showed flashes but was inconsistent, plus seemed not to understand positioning himself for rebounds or how to use his frame.
Roland Lazenby has a pipeline to the most honest and knowledgeable critiqer of the Lakers right now â€” Tex Winter. Thatâ€™s good for us because Lazenby is a great sports writer in the classic sense, he lets the people with the insight tell the story.
Even if we donâ€™t always like what the story says â€” in this case about Bynum.
(After the summer league games), Jackson and his coaching staff wanted to see what Winter thought of the play of the teamâ€™s young players, especially teen-aged center Andrew Bynum.
â€œWe all were in hopes that he would really arrive,â€ Winter explained.
However, after studying the tape, Winter offered the truth. The 7-1 Bynum had â€œa couple of really good games,â€ Winter said, but the 84-year-old guru came away with questions about Bynumâ€™s intensity, his lack of â€œfire in the belly.”
“His energy is a question,â€ Winter said.
Winter also raised questions about Bynumâ€™s quickness, his reaction to the ball, to events on the floor.
Is Bynum still a couple more years away from being a solid contributor? If so, where does that leave the Lakers? While I think we need to be somewhat patient with a challenging rebuilding process, the clock is ticking on Kobeâ€™s prime and the Lakers canâ€™t afford setbacks.
That isnâ€™t to say Bynum isnâ€™t both working on his game and improving. Along those lines there is a great article by Eric Stitt at Hoops Hype, talking about why the skyhook has gone the way of the dodo â€” whatâ€™s more crowd pleasing, a dunk or a skyhook? â€” and about Abdul-Jabbarâ€™s the effort to teach the shot to Andrew Bynum.
Bill Bertka, former longtime Lakersâ€™ assistant coach, said in the early 1980â€™s the coaching staff designed a number of plays for Abdul-Jabbar to shoot the skyhook on the left block, which made the shot even more effective because of its versatility.
â€œOn this block over here (sketching the right one), heâ€™d always wanna step into the lane here, which was deadly,â€ Bertka said. â€œAnytime he got that, it was money in the bank. But they took that away. And thatâ€™s when he developed this drop step on the left block. A counter move. Kareem had the shot mastered to perfection and with his agility and shot concentration, you couldnâ€™t reach the shot.â€
But Bynumâ€™s offensive game is a long way from Jabbarâ€™s. While we never expected him to score 38,000 points, the questions of how much he can contribute and when will be keys to seeing if Kobe can raise another banner at Staples.
You need to read all of the Roland Lazenby talk with Tex Winter for other reasons. First, Winter likes Farmar but is not sure how much he can contribute this year. Personally, after watching him at the SPL, I still think by the end of the season (if he can stay healthy) heâ€™ll be taking key minutes from Smush and Shammond. But either way he can be the guy in a couple years. Second, he thinks Pinnock is a keeper.