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Repeat feat lies on Bynum's shoulders (and knees)

Despite injuries, center's mental state will either drive or derail Lakers' title hopes.


Lakers fans started chanting it after Game 2, "We Want Boston! We Want Boston!"

 

Boston fans were thinking it after Game 5 yesterday, "Beat L.A! Beat L.A.!"

 

The rematch that Lakers fans and the NBA has been waiting for is almost a formality. But while we get ready to see classic footage from the 60's, 80's and 2008's version of the Boston Massacre, there's one small problem.

 

Actually a big problem in Andrew Bynum. It's late May so that means another question about Bynum's effectiveness and his fragile knees.

 

Fans will tell you that the Lakers won the title last year with Bynum playing the same way. Realists will point out that dealing with Dwight Howard pales to handling Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis.

 

Here's a fact nobody wants to admit. The Lakers will not win against Boston if Bynum can't stay in games long enough to make an impact.

 

Read that again. The 2010 NBA Finals will not be won on Kobe Bryant averaging a near double-double in points and assists or if Pau Gasol shows a toughness he lacked two years ago. It's about Bynum being a presence, not just a decoy.

 

Call this writer crazy. Call me a pessimist in the middle of a repeat fever sweeping the city. But call me correct if Game 3 against Phoenix didn't show a potential problem with Bynum and Lamar Odom not being effective.

 

When one of those two has a great game, the Lakers usually win. When both are handcuffed by bad fouls and somebody in their face, the game becomes that much harder for them.

 

Bryant and Gasol had 20-plus points, usually an automatic postseason win. But despite Bryant's near triple double, the outcome was a loss as Bynum had more fouls than points once again.

 

It's hard to blame Bynum for being a tease when injuries have slowed him down. But if Greg Oden can wrongly be labeled a near-bust in Portland with similar to worse knee injuries, it's time to get real about Bynum.

 

He is who we thought he is - a big body that can rebound, block and score when necessary, in that order. A center that's been taught from one of the best in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but lacks the poise to contribute every night.

 

That being said, he's the ex-factor against Boston. He's a better scorer than Kendrick Perkins and he has the size to neutralize him on the glass.

 

It all depends if mentally he can block his knee troubles and not disappear when Gasol exerts his will on the court. That's where the 22-year-old has to grow up and do it quickly.

 

With Game 5 tonight, Bynum has to play like he did in Game 2. Come out aggressive, demand the ball and be smart about picking up fouls.

 

He's not the cornerstone many expected when Abdul-Jabbar began working with him but he's not a bust either. Now is the time for him to make up in his mind if he wants to be reliable because the title hopes of a city rests on it.

Category: Basketball


 

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