Around the World (Wide Web): Bynum, Walton and Kobe in the Studio

Phillip Barnett —  March 31, 2010

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers

Silver Screen and Roll on Andrew Bynum: As the Lakers slouch toward the end of an uninspired road trip, the status of Andrew Bynum is a festering problem. The convalescent big man has now missed five games with a strained Achilles tendon – tonight’s game against the Atlanta Hawks will make it six – and there’s no timetable for his return. Yes, my friends, once again a Laker injury is dragging out longer than we were led to expect. You may remember this feeling of impotent rage from Bynum’s first knee injury in 2008, his second knee injury in 2009, Pau Gasol’s hamstring injury at the beginning of this season and Kobe Bryant’s hand injury from earlier this year. On Monday, Phil Jackson called Bynum’s continued absence his biggest concern about the team. Certainly, having Drew on the court would be useful tonight, as the Hawks, in Al Horford, have the type of center that Drew can dominate. Horford’s a productive player, but he’s undersized, and when Atlanta visited Staples way back on November 1, Bynum scored 21 easy pointages and held Horford to 3-for-8 shooting. The Lakers won that game, 118 to 110. Kobe scored 41 and, at one point in the fourth quarter, the Lakers led by 24. Tonight’s contest, I feel safe in predicting, will be more difficult.

Land O’ Lakers on Andrew Bynum: Andrew Bynum is hardly the first Laker to spend time on the bench in street clothes this season. But he is the latest, and the combination of his injury history and the relative proximity to the playoffs makes the strain to his left Achilles tendon suffered against the Wolves back on March 19 a special sort of scary. He’ll almost certainly be out until next week, leaving the Lakers to find, or at least start looking for, their pre-postseason groove without him. A fair amount of time is spent talking about how Bynum’s presence impacts the team. Does the offense run as smoothly with him in the middle? Does Pau Gasol suffer? Then come the “What if’s?” What if he busted tail defensively 

Lakers on Andrew Bynum: Andrew Bynum is hardly the first Laker to spend time on the bench in street clothes this season. But he is the latest, and the combination of his injury history and the relative proximity to the playoffs makes the strain to his left Achilles tendon suffered against the Wolves back on March 19 a special sort of scary. He’ll almost certainly be out until next week, leaving the Lakers to find, or at least start looking for, their pre-postseason groove without him. A fair amount of time is spent talking about how Bynum’s presence impacts the team. Does the offense run as smoothly with him in the middle? Does Pau Gasol suffer? Then come the “What if’s?” What if he busted tail defensively every night? What if he found ways to stay involved even when his touches go down?

Laker Noise on Luke Walton: Lord knows I don’t want to saddle Luke Walton with any sort of “savior” label as he prepares to return to the Los Angeles Lakers bench after weeks of nursing a back injury. After all, it’s going to take time and patience for Walton to work his way back in. He’s only played two dozen games this season and has been out since just before the All Star Game. But when he resumes playing next week and if he’s able to round into form, Walton should improve a lot of things for Phil Jackson’s team. The Lakers’ bench was decidedly exposed against the New Orleans Hornets in last night’s loss, and Walton should add considerable strength there. He’s had his highlight moments defensively, but it’s the execution of the triangle offense that should improve substantially with Walton on the floor. Improving that execution should help the bench keep better control of tempo, which means they have a better chance of holding their ground, of not losing leads.

Sports Illustrated on Ron Artest: The fact that Lakers coaches and teammates are obliquely criticizing Ron Artest just three weeks before Los Angeles begins to defend its title in the playoffs actually says a lot about how reliable the 6-foot-7 forward has been this season. When the Lakers and Rockets made their virtual swap of free agents Artest and Trevor Ariza last summer, the conventional wisdom was that Artest’s rugged defense could really help the Purple and Gold — provided he didn’t suffer an emotional meltdown, hog the ball, draw a lengthy suspension or otherwise find a way to implode the team.

The OC Register on the Lakers not trying: One of Lamar Odom’s favorite sayings is that a team’s personality reflects that of its coach. So if Phil Jackson is still not trying, why should his team? And make no mistake about it: Phil Jackson is not trying yet. Here’s a recap of the Lakers’ current 2-2 trip that is being viewed as the most colossal disappointment in Lakerland since Shannon Brown arrived in the dunk contest and looked more like Derek Fisher in the layup line. Wednesday: Jackson does try at the start of the trip, sending a message to his team that he wants focus and execution in the first game in San Antonio. The Lakers start slowly but respond to the halftime prodding and dominate the second half. Thursday: Jackson holds a short practice in Oklahoma City, albeit with Kobe Bryant chillin’ in a fluorescent Nike sweatsuit instead of a purple Lakers practice warmup. When the Lakers are unable to execute any of the ball-movement applications Jackson is teaching, he goes ahead and ends practice rather than pushing them and working on it till they get it right.

ESPN on the Lakers going through the motions: The Lakers are beginning to look more and more like a group of high school seniors during the final two weeks before graduation. With their college acceptance letters in hand and their grades all but decided, they are simply going through the motions. Maybe it’s time to consider the Lakers’ current five-game road trip one big senior ditch day or perhaps an extended spring break. After all, the Lakers have shown up for only two quarters during this trip, which has actually been good enough for two wins and a 2-2 record, including their 108-100 loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Monday (the final game of the trip is at Atlanta on Wednesday). Lakers coach Phil Jackson let his team rest on Sunday after a 109-101 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday, and apparently the players figured they’d take full advantage of the day off, by the looks of their performance against the Hornets. In many ways, the Lakers’ defeat on Monday was just as bad as their humiliating 91-75 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, which was thought to be their worst in two years.

Kurt at Pro Basketball Talk on the Lakers lollygagging: You Lakers. You lollygag the ball around the perimeter. You lollygag your way down the court. You lollygag in and out of the locker room. You know what that makes you? Kobe? Lollygaggers. Lollygaggers.  Kobe is basically thinking that. This is what he told the NBATV crew last night. “It is my responsibility to make sure that we improve and continue to move in the right direction. The playoffs are right here so it is important that I put my foot on the gas and make sure that we have in our mind’s eye the kind of urgency that we need to play with and defend… ”The trap that you run into is that you play with that sense of urgency when you are down 10, 12, 13 points. That is the kind of mentality that I do not want us to have going into the post season. You kind of lollygag going into a series and then you are down 3-1. You kind of fall into that false sense of security and all of a sudden it is time to go and it’s too late.”

The Los Angeles Times on Kobe’s appearance on NBA TV (with video): There Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sat in the NBA TV studios, discussing the regular season MVP race. There Bryant stood on set, explaining the six game-winners he compiled this season. And there Bryant was, openly acknowledging that Coach Phil Jackson had once used him as a decoy on a final play. During NBA TV’s Fan Night on Tuesday, Bryant appeared in a much different mood than he displayed Monday during the final moments of the Lakers’ 108-100 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. Before the result was all but official, a frustrated Bryant punched a chair during a timeout. After it was official, Bryant’s curt one-sentence answers barely masked his obvious frustrations. Ahh, how a day can help heal wounds. “What kind of mood are you in right now?” NBA TV host Ernie Johnson asked Bryant. “You weren’t too happy last night after that New Orleans game.” “I was very jovial,” Bryant joked. “Yeah, right,” Johnson laughed. “How you feeling now?” “I’m OK,” Bryant said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”

Lakers/Hawks preview from The No Look Pass: Waaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy earlier in the year, the L.A. Lakers beat the Atlanta Hawks, 118-110. The rematch happens tonight in the Highlight Factory. The stakes are much higher now than they were in the first week of the regular season. The Lakers are just kind of going through the motions despite winning 8 of their last 10. The Hawks are trying to claw into the Top 3 of the East as they have the same record as the Boston Celtics.To help me preview the game, I asked Lang Whitaker. Mr. Whitaker (I wonder if he feels old when I call him that) is the executive editor of SLAM Magazine, appears on NBA TV’s “The Beat” every Tuesday night (first airs at 6:30 P.M. Eastern), and writes a column for Hawks.Com. He also has a book (that will be published by Scribner) due out sometime next year, which is untitled as of now but it’s a memoir about him growing up as an Atlanta Braves fan during the Bobby Cox era. So baseball fans, especially Braves fans, can look forward to that.

Lakers/Hawks preview from Sporting News: The Los Angeles Lakers have the Western Conference‘s top seed all but wrapped up, so going 2-2 thus far on a strenuous five-game road trip doesn’t seem like much of a reason to panic. The defending champions see it a bit differently. Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom were furious with the Lakers’ effort in their latest loss, but to bounce back with a trip-ending victory Wednesday night they’ll have to snap the Atlanta Hawks’ eight-game home winning streak. Los Angeles (54-20) picked up its seventh straight win to kick off its five-game trip, limiting San Antonio to 35 points after halftime in a come-from-behind 92-83 win. The Lakers’ defense hasn’t been nearly as sharp since. Los Angeles fell behind by 33 and allowed Oklahoma City to shoot nearly 50 percent in a 91-75 loss Saturday, then Phil Jackson said he wasn’t happy as the Lakers let a 21-point lead dwindle to single digits late in a 109-101 win at Houston one night later.

-Phillip

Phillip Barnett

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12 responses to Around the World (Wide Web): Bynum, Walton and Kobe in the Studio

  1. I get why people don’t like Kevin Ding but I really do find his articles to be insightful at times and a positive spin on whatever the situation is.

  2. I am thinking that Bynam and injuries will go hand and foot. Just like Ming and Odem he is a big man who is breakable. The difference in my mind is the mind of Andrew. I sense he is more like Eddy Curry in that he knows he is getting paid the same while injured as when playing.

    He is missing the passion for the game that makes a Kobe play hurt or rehab sooner. I don’t see it ever changing just like with Curry.

    (edited for trade speculation)

  3. I don’t see how anyone can harp on Andrew not loving the game when he worked his tail off to come back last season and dragged that bum leg around for the entire playoffs when it would have been much easier to not come back at all. Have you ever had to rehab a knee injury? This is a guy that’s come back stronger and more refined (though less athletic) after two pretty bad injuries. People focus on the things he does outside of basketball but rarely mention the time he puts in at the gym working on his game. Andrew has his flaws as a player, but I don’t think his love of the game or his want to be great is one of them. Eddy Curry? Please.

  4. Sometimes rather than a complete overhaul, all you need is a little glue. You know,something to keep everything stuck together and running efficient as a whole. Luke Walton would never be mentioned in the same breath as Kobe or Pau or even his dad Bill, but what he does bring is stability and cohesion to an oftentimes undisciplined second unit.

    Removing one key piece means moving all of the others around to compensate for its loss. I’m not saying Luke is the reason the Lakers will win or lose, but I am pointing out something that has been missing all season long; consistency from the Bench Mob. LO moving into the starting line-up is another bullet taken out of the bench’s chamber but getting Luke back next week and hopefully Bynum in time for the playoffs will go a long way towards stabilizing the ups-and-downs we’ve been experiencing.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with Darius. To add on to what he said I would go on to say the easiest way to see if a player loves the game and cares about what he does is by looking at his body. Bynum was a fat kid in high school and dropped 30 lbs before the draft… since then his body has improved every year. The man is either vain or cares about what he does for a living. Now Pau “flabby” Gasol you can make an argument against. Have you seen him without his shirt on?

  6. Darius,
    I agree with Ken; the evidence points to him not having a lot of passion for the game. Everything from him getting a late start playing basketball, to comments from the coaching staff about him being lackadaisical at times, to his attitude on the court when he isn’t getting involved in the offense, and an unwillingness to embrace the role that the staff wanted him to fill. Those are all separate from the injuries.

  7. exhelodrvr,
    I understand your points, but to me those are more symptoms of immaturity than a lack passion for basketball. (As for the late start – so he got a late start, who cares? So did Tim Duncan. So did Hakeem. You don’t always start playing basketball at 7. I’m no professional, but I didn’t seriously play basketball until I was in Jr. High. I played soccer and competed in other sports. But I love the game. Everyone’s development is not the same and it doesn’t have to be for that person to ultimately have the same passion for their craft.) And like I said in my comment, Bynum has his issues – the ones you mention I think are the most frequently referenced. And those shouldn’t just be glossed over when critiquing him as a player. But, I just don’t think a player puts in the work that is needed to come back from the injuries and then deal with the subsequent adversity spawned from them if he didn’t love to play the game.

  8. I agree with Darius. For one, Bynum has shown potential, he has shown he can play like a dominant center on both ends. Also, I don’t think Bynum was ever as out of shape as Curry… It made me really sad that Bynum got injured right when he was putting together one his best sequence of defensive efforts

  9. Listen. We have to defending our champion now. Now or never! There is certain expections when u r a Laker and player need to take pride to be a Laker. Yes, we are struggling and yes, our bench playing suck.However, at the end of the day, if we win, nothing of this matters. Let’s face it, CAVS are a great team, but we have the ability to defeat them. So, let just do it! Stop worry about all those things and let’s just take care the business

  10. Darius,
    THe huge difference with Duncan and Alajuwon was that they were heavily involved in other sports. Bynum wasn’t. It’s rare to develop the passion/drive needed to be great at this point in life. As far as immaturity, this is his fourth year in the league. If immaturity is still a problem, there is a very strong chance it’s not going to get better.

  11. exhelodrvr,
    You make good points. However, I think that years in the league matter less when a player is so young. He came into the league at 17. He didn’t play regularly until his third season. Then after he did become a regular rotation player, he missed a lot of court time due to injuries. I actually think, based off some of his quotes, that he was really starting to get “it” this season right before his strained achilles. He was playing better defense and rebounding more consistently and was talking about effecting the game in other ways besides just scoring.

    I understand where you’re coming from and I’ve maintained the entire time that I think Bynum still has issues that may or may not ever be completely gone. I just don’t agree that he doesn’t have the passion or drive. Not based off everything he’s had to go through to be the player that he’s shown he is at this point in his career. I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.