After his injury, the Lakers ripped off 11 wins in their next 12 games, including victories at Boston and Cleveland — the Cavaliers' only home loss this season.
"They're a top-two or -three team with Bynum," Karl said. "Can they get to the top of the mountain playing two 7-footers? You have to remember, there haven't been a lot of teams in the last 10 years that have played two 7-footers. The game has actually gone away from the big guy, away from the paint, power game."
Of course, nobody asked Karl if he'd like to try.
What was most encouraging about Bynum's return wasn't how he played, but how two others did — Gasol and Lamar Odom. Gasol took advantage of gaps in the defense, some of which were created by Bynum's presence, to grab 11 offensive rebounds.
Meanwhile, Odom — like it or not — returned to the sixth-man role. It may not be a coincidence that as Odom moved into the starting lineup when Bynum was hurt, the Lakers bench, which played so energetically earlier in the season, floundered.
So, it did not go unnoticed when Odom entered the game midway through the first quarter and immediately blocked a shot at one end and hit a 3-pointer at the other.