Andrew Bynum Shows Value Even When He Doesn’t Play

Darius Soriano —  March 23, 2011

As we’re all aware, Andrew Bynum has missed the last two Laker games due to suspension. He leveled an airborne player, that player crashed to the ground, Bynum was ejected and suspended two additional games as extra punishment. There are various ways to look at the foul and subsequent suspension but I’m not here to argue those points. I understand that some are, essentially, okay with what Bynum did (for a variety of reasons) but I am not one of those people. We can agree to disagree if you’re on the other side of this debate. I’m perfectly okay with that.

Again, though, I’m not here to discuss Bynum as tough guy/dirty player/enforcer. There are bigger things to focus on, like how the Lakers played in his absence and why it’s now more clear than ever that the Lakers need him playing well to achieve their ultimate goal this season.

Earlier in the year when Bynum was missing games while recovering from his knee injury, the Lakers suffered for it. That said, they suffered not from any contributions he was providing but rather because the Lakers needed bodies. I feel entirely comfortable in saying that during Bynum’s absence early in the year the team suffered more because it forced heavy minutes onto Pau and his play dipped because of it. The fact that Theo Ratliff was injured and Phil didn’t trust rookie Derrick Caracter to perform in spot duty meant that Gasol carried an inordinate load on both sides of the ball and he started to play worse due to the increased wear.

Essentially, Bynum’s absence created a domino effect that the Lakers, and Pau specifically, had trouble dealing with.

However, in these last two games with Bynum out, the Lakers not only saw that same domino effect (Pau was inefficienct offensively in both games – shooting 15-40 while scoring 38 points – while still doing a good job in rebounding – totalling 26 in the two games) but we also saw how much the team really missed Bynum.

With the restructuring of the Lakers defensive sets to capitalize on Bynum’s sheer size and ability to block and alter shots, the fact that Bynum is out makes it so the Lakers clearly lose something on defense. Against both the Blazers and the Suns the Lakers found themselves scrambling on D and switching big men onto guards/wings more often than in recent games with Bynum available. This switching led to more mismatches all over the court that the Lakers had difficulty dealing with. Just look at a lot of the open jumpers that Nic Batum got or how Gasol ended up switching onto Nash late in the Suns game. These are only two examples but they’re reflective of how the Lakers scheme was compromised in order to better cover for each other – something that we saw much less of with Bynum playing.

I understand two games is a small sample size and that what I’ve desribed could be chalked up to sample size or the opponent. After all, Phoenix with their uptempo P&R heavy offense and Portland with their slow down screen and post centric sets offer two of the more polarizing styles that a team could face in back to back games. That said, when the same trends pop up in both match ups, I think it’s fair to say that it may not be the opponent, but rather the Lakers style that’s dictating what’s seen. And what we saw was a team – despite some good defensive numbers against Portland – that wasn’t playing that same peak level D as it was with Bynum available. And since this team will go as far as their defense takes them, I think this is important to note.

At this point, I’m just happy that Bynum is coming back on Friday. Without him, the Lakers are an excellent team that has just as good a shot to win the title as the Bulls, Spurs, and Celtics. With him playing – especially at the level he was playing at before his suspension – I think the Lakers are the favorites. So while I’m happy for the wins that the Lakers got while Bynum sat out, I’m more excited about the wins they hope to get when he’s back in the fold. And based off some of the little things I saw with him out, his value may mean plenty of them.

Darius Soriano

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31 responses to Andrew Bynum Shows Value Even When He Doesn’t Play

  1. Any word on the swelling and fluid buildup that was mentioned on the telecast last night? That was the first I’ve heard of it. Before it was just normal aches and pains. Bynum used to say as long as there was no inflammation and swelling it would be okay.

    I’m concerned about this news.

  2. Point well taken. I think Gortat putting up 24/16 is evidence enough that Bynum’s presence was sorely missed.

  3. Don’t get me wrong I love the way Bynum was playing but I think it’s too small of a sample size to make that determination. Especially since Portland and Phoenix are teams the always give us trouble for different reasons.

    I do think that in the playoffs, as the game slows down Bynums interior defensive presence is super important, BUT Odom’s playmaking ability and matchup problems he causes cannot be overstated.

    At the end of playoff games I still rather have Odom’s skill sets then Andrew Bynum.

    Like I said I’m taking nothing away from the kid, I’ve done a 180 on my opinion of him since the all-star break

  4. As I have commented before, I think Andrew (a young 23, regardless of how long he has been in the NBA) is going through a learning process in determining how he should act in the game. This was a good lesson and I expect him to develop a way to give a hard foul in the future without getting ejected.

    Remember he is playing with two very emotional players in Kobe and Ron-Ron. Two entirely different types, but two players who stay involved with the game and can show their emotions (both cold and hot).

  5. 1,
    The fluid in his knee has been there since the start of his season. It had been previously reported. Bynum said it hasnt been. Too much of a bother for him and he has been taking anti inflammatory meds to help push it out. He said when all the fluid is gone he would let the media know.

  6. #2: Keep in mind that was in 53 minutes. It extrapolates down to 18/12 per 40, which is still above his averages but not hugely so (he’s averaging 16.9/12.3 per 40 this season in 29 minutes). I’d have preferred to have Bynum in the game against him too, but don’t forget the distortion that 15 extra minutes will do to stats. -

  7. If Bynum keeps contributing to the Lakers’ success at a high level, Henry Abbott will find somebody – probably Malcolm Gladwell – to do a detailed statistical analysis to prove he really isn’t “all that” effective, regardless of what we can see by – you know – watching the game. At that point, we will know young ‘drew has truly emerged as a force to be reckoned with!

  8. Whether Bynum’s contributions since the All-Star break have been overstated or not it’s still a winning formula to have a 7-footer that makes an impact on the rebounds in this league. Even if his impact dropped of somewhat (which I’m wishfully doubting will happen) other teams will see what he’s doing now and will take note of it in their scouting reports.

    On a unrelated note – I’m watch the Heat & Detroit game right now and the announcers are cracking me up. The innuendos they make “geared” towards engine-related phrases is out-of-this-world corny. “Keep the pedal!” “The Pistons are firing on all cylinders!”

  9. 8 – Let’s hope the Pistons do a burn out on the Heat’s collective faces.

  10. Do you think if there was an big fat guy that played for the Memphis Grizzlies that the Memphis announcers would make puns about him feeding the opposition “bear claws” whenever he dunked?

  11. wooh..Celtics loss

  12. 10,
    Oh … You should watch more Memphis games. They have a big fat guy… He starts at Center.

  13. …and a fatter one at PF.

  14. This just in… Coach K won’t leave Duke to coach the Lakers.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/news/story?id=6251794

    How low do you have to be at the ESPN totem pole if you get stuck writing the annoying non-stories that just won’t go away for years and years?

    -would coach K take the Laker job?
    -Jordan making another comeback?
    -Does Phil want to coach the Knicks?
    -Barry Bonds did steroids and lied about it?

  15. “-Barry Bonds did steroids and lied about it?”

    Say it ain’t so, Barry!

  16. the nuggets look pretty dangerous.

    if they’d made their free throws this wouldn’t even be a close game.

    seems like without duncan’s defensive expertise, the spurs foul more often.

  17. R –

    We get to choose what we do for a living. The fact that Henry Abbot’s greatest achievements are “morning coffee” and “bullets,” an aggregation of OTHER peoples’ work, tells you all you need to know.

    He’s made it his life’s work to constantly criticize the accomplishments of a man much greater than himself – Kobe Bryant. Regardless of what you do for a living, if this is what you devote your entire time to, you are quite pathetic.

    This quant wanna-be, who’s main area of expertise is some copy-writing company and a s***** basketball blog, would have you believe that he is our savior and will set us straight on Kobe Bryant – the opinions of people that actually matter, (NBA GM’s, other basketball players), Kobe’s accomplishments (5 titles, MVP’s, awards, etc.) all these facts BE DAMNED.

    His vitriol towards Kobe Bryant at this point is flat out ludicrous- it must be sad to have your life so consumed by one man.

    “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.”

  18. goodness gracious, i cant understand what abbot is trying to do. if you believe in kobe in crunch time then no amount of his stupid analysis will sway your opinion and if you were undecided then you probably got the point after the first 2 articles he has already written on the same subject. seriously , what is wrong with abbot, its like his brain is jammed on this kobe is not clutch stuff it is pathetic and childish. we get it abbot you dont like kobe now focus on somebody you do like and leave kobe to us , laker fans, we will somehow “tolerate” his non clutchness

  19. This one sentence from Abbott’s article says it all: “Just about every survey ever conducted of players, GMs and other NBA insiders insists he [Kobe} is alone at the top of the list [of clutch performers].

    He could, and should have added coaches to the list. And who are these people who are so blinded by Kobe’s reputation that they just don’t realize how “unclutch” he is? It’s the people who play against Kobe, and the people who are PAID to evaluate players based on what they SEE on the court.

    So what Abbott is really saying to those people closest to the game and observing Kobe and the rest of the league first hand is: “Who are you going to believe, my biased stats or your lying eyes?”

    Kobe isn’t perfect. His failure rate is high in these situations, as it is for anyone who is the “go-to” man for a team. When the focus of the other team is squarely on one player, with the sole aim to not let HIM beat us, success rates plummet.

    On a sidenote, during the last Lakers-Heat game the broadcast showed a comparison of the clutchness of Kobe vs Lebron and Wade. Kobe made about 33 percent of his shots, while Lebron and Wade hit at about 22 percent. And the two Heat players are “among the three best players in the NBA!” ‘Nuff Said!

  20. My issue with Abbott’s whole case is that “clutch” is not quantifiable. If he wants to say that Kobe is overrated in the “FG% in the last 24 seconds of close games” stat, fine. But that’s not the same thing as “clutch.”

    I have no problem with Abbott’s numbers , but with his interpretive leaps from a very basic and limited data set.

    *I have been lurking and enjoying this site for a while now, but have yet to post. I love the intelligence of both the writers and the commenters.

  21. Check out the Mav’s schedule – they’re already a game behind us, and they’ve got road games at our place, at Portland and at Phoenix – all at the tail end of a back-to-back. That bodes very favorably for us.

    Boston still has to go to Chicago, Miami and San Antonio. Unfortunately I think they likely will win at Miami and at the Spur’s place if they don’t have TD. And I think we realistically need Boston (they’re now tied with us in # of losses) to drop at least 3 more games in the regular season to give us HCA over them. What do y’all think?

  22. I think we might start to focus on Chicago…they are for real.

  23. I can’t wait until someone finds a data set that no one can argue with: say, in the last 8 seconds of a tied, one, two, or three-point game Kobe has an effective FG% of 87% and the Lakers win 91% of those games, and the next closest is Carmelo (for instance) with a 51% eFG and a 37% winning percentage. (NUMBERS NOT REAL)

    Abbott’s angle will be that since Kobe had 22 attempts and no one else in the league had more than 9, it shows what a weak team the Lakers are. Or how selfish Kobe is by not passing the ball to someone else.

    On a slightly related note, I caught the end of the Spurs/Nuggets game last night: Spurs down three, 6 seconds to go, Ginobili gets the inbound and barely gets off a three that misses the rim by about two feet. One thing I think we all tend to forget is what an excellent shot-taker Kobe is, it’s rare that one of his crunch-time baskets gets seriously contested. And even when they are well-defended, every shot has a chance to go in. Ask Alvin Gentry.

  24. There is a reason GMs and players say Kobe is clutch – his 5 championship rings.

    Before you dismiss it as being ‘ring talk’ think about it for a second. 5 Rings means that Kobe has won games that matter. Of course 3 of them were with Shaq, but we all know how reliable Shaq was towards the end of the game, with his ‘make them when they count’ FTs.

    Hence you can argue, stats be damned, that Kobe has delivered, and delivered enough to carry his teams to the finals 7 times (50% of his playing years).

    That is clutch. If you define clutch as performance with an arbitrary time left in the game, you could also define clutch as performance over a season and over a career with the end goal being delivering the ultimate hardware.

    On a side note, since that hardware is not an individual honor but a team award, you could also argue that he is the ultimate TEAM player.

    I know, this is a bit Gladwell-like correlation/argument, but really, if you can accept that no amount of clutch-ness is worth a cent if you can’t win the game, you should be able to accept that no amount of clutch-ness can overcome being the go-to guy on a championship team.

  25. @23, JB, And that’s one of those things stats cannot take into account. The quality of the look. Sometimes shots just don’t go in.

    I like numbers and stats, I think they tell you a lot. But basketball is such a fluid game with so many moving parts, I think current models only show one facet of the game. People truly vested in building an accurate model understand this.

    Stats don’t take into account how defense have to account for a certain player and how teammates could benefit from it or vice versa.

    In Jordan’s first threepeat, he had BJ and Paxson on the team, they shot 45% and 46% respectively from the 3 pt line. Can you imagine the luxury of having one of those guys on the court at all times next to MJ? Defenses had to account for those guys and I’m sure that helped MJ and also inflated his assists numbers.

    That’s the kind of thing stats really can’t measure right now. Not to make this a Kobe vs MJ thread, that’s not my point. But current basketball stats are not perfect. They show a lot but aren’t close to definitive.

  26. The biggest thing with Abbott harping on Kobe the way he does, aside from how patently ridiculous it has become (he is officially on the same level as Doc Rivers with his “our starting five have never lost to the Lakers”), is that the day he actually makes a valid point and has a good argument to back it up, none of us here at least will listen to him. And I doubt we are the only ones who no longer take him seriously, due to this obsession of his.

  27. Kobe has been shooting 30% plenty of games, Bynum hasn´t proofed anything yet (he plays well ten regular season games and now is the star…), four years ago LA was a below average playoff team (potential first, second round looser)…..

    And you guys still talking about greatness of Kobe (obvious), potential of Bynum,…. Wake up

    The only real difference between where you are now and three years ago is called Pau, two championships, a final, and who knows this year… (edited for baiting comment.)

  28. Abnesia,

    Kobe, indeed has been shooting poorly lately. That is true. Another other true statement is that we’ve also been winning. I’ll take Kobe anyday, because I have picked him in the past and he’s taking us to 5 rings. That’s greatness.

    What were Bill Russels’ numbers? Nobody remembers, right? 11 rings, that’s what we remember. What were Bill Russels’ numbers at the time compared to Wilts? Based on numbers alone, one might pick Wilt over Russel. But at the end of the day, we hold Russel to a higher regard because of his rings. So when I hear a knock on Kobe’s greatness – in light of Kobe’s comments about chasing rings and not numbers – I see someone who understand basketball in the context of the current game and not the end game (ie championships).

  29. Russell shot 44% for his career, while noted bust (and fellow big man) Darko Milicic is at 46% (Jason Collins checks in at a solid .412). Rings matter. Never forget this.

  30. I think it is ironic that people are justifying Kobe’s stats w/ his record of winning championships. For so many years, some analysts tried to label Kobe as capable of putting up gaudy numbers (81 pts in a game, 62 in 3 quarters, 50+ in four straight games, 12 3-pointers in 1 game, etc etc etc) and individual accomplishments (8 1st team All-NBA, 10 1st/2nd team All-defensive, 3 All-star MVP, 2 Finals MVP, etc) but unable to elevate his team enough to win a championship w/ out Shaq.

    To me this just shows how great of a career Kobe has had and how much he has matured as a player.

  31. 27,
    Sorry… Pau isn’t the main differense. I guess you aren’t a Lakers fan. On the day the Lakers traded for Gasol they were the first seed in the western conference mainly because Andrew Bynum turned into the second best Center in the NBA. It allowed Kobe some help and Lamar to be in a more comfortable for him as the teams third option.