Learning Curve Almost Complete?

Darius Soriano —  April 21, 2010

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Over the course of this season, one of things that all Lakers fans wanted to see was improved chemistry between Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. We hoped that our twin seven footers could develop into an improved version of Duncan/Robinson or Hakeem/Sampson to make our front court even more dominant than it already has been over the past two seasons (where, anchored by Gasol the Lakers’ big man rotation helped this team reach two straight Finals). However, what we’ve witnessed instead has been our two bigs not quite clicking when paired on the court together.  Whether it’s the overlapping skill set, the lack of shared court time – in games and practices – due to injuries, or the fact that they just haven’t been reading from the same script ‘Drew and Pau just haven’t been as good together as we would have hoped.  I mean, the regular season numbers don’t lie on this one.  It’s no coincidence that the Lakers’ best lineups this year have featured one of Bynum or Gasol at center with Odom playing power forward.

However, are we starting to see a shift in the chemistry between our twin towers?  Could it be that Bynum and Gasol are finally starting to click?  Commenter Chownoir wants to know if you’re seeing the same things that he is:

Anyone notice that in the two games so far Pau and Bynum seem to work well together? I’m not talking about them playing well against a undersized OKC frontline. But how their games seem to be meshing well together. It was a huge concern earlier in the year about their inability to mesh and how a big game from one would detract from the other. Their respective injuries also took time away from learning how to play with each other.  Last two games, they seem to know where the other guy was and how to make the play for each other. Last night Bynum’s shot wasn’t falling but his D and rebounding was still there. While Pau continued to put up his points.

It turns out that Chownoir is not alone because our own Phillip was seeing the same things, with a couple of examples from the first two games against OKC:

I was recognizing the same thing with Bynum and Pau working together. In game 1, Pau caught a couple of passes in the right corner and was able to make the entry pass over the raised hands (of his defender) to Bynum that Fish, Farmar and Brown weren’t able to make. In Game 2, early in the third quarter, Pau made a gorgeous pass to Bynum from the top of the key. Bynum missed, but everyone collapsed on him, freeing up Gasol for the putback. A possession or two later, Bynum made a fantastic pass to Gasol which led to the dunk. Both passes were inside of the paint. I’ve wondered if Bynum would have the interior passing ability of a Shaq or Gasol, and he’s shown glimpses of it this series.

We’ve always known that having both Bynum and Gasol on the court helped our defense and rebounding.  But if these two can find that togetherness on offense too, this team can reach another level of success altogether.

Granted, two playoff games isn’t the biggest sample size.  And even though this duo had some good games together before Andrew’s achilles injury, we can’t necessarily say that this team has turned the corner quite yet.  But, the signs are encouraging.  Every high-low hook up, every post feed from Pau to ‘Drew, every time they properly space the floor for each other is another positive step in the evolution of this tandem’s togetherness.  They are truly starting to show that their early struggles to have success together were just growing pains that finally seem to be subsiding.  We may be finally be at the point where the learning curve is almost complete.  And frankly, this improved play couldn’t be coming at a better time.  With the Lakers’ outside shooters still not finding any consistency, the play of the Lakers’ big men will only be more heavily relied upon if this team hopes to have a long playoff run.

And while there are still reasons to be skeptical (even though they’ve shown improved chemistry, they still don’t always play well in the same game), I’m optimistic that they will only get better together.  I think that because they’ll continue to be given the reps, these two will feel each other out and find the ways that they can work together to take both of their games to a higher level.  They’ll explore more options within this offense and discover more ways that they can cover for each other on defense.  And personally, I can’t wait to see it.

Darius Soriano

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