Finally, there is a legitimate third candidate to represent the Lakers in Cowboy Stadium for this year’s All-Star game along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
And, no, it’s not Lamar Odom.
Certainly, Odom deserves to be an All-Star, and it wouldn’t be improbable for Laker Nation’s Candy Man. But since the West is stocked with All-Star type forwards, it would be a pretty tall order for L.O. Guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant and Carlos Boozer weren’t even on the team last year, and that only shows how tough it would be to crack a spot on the roster that already counts Dirk, Tim and Pau every year.
But at the center spot, 22 year old Andrew Bynum is slowly working towards becoming one of the best big men in the game to go along with his bowling skills. Without question, he has had moments that suggest his skills and promise, and barring injuries, this looks like the year that he has long awaited for – a solid year that he can play completely through, and one in which he can claim his spot as perhaps the top center in the West.
Even Dime Magazine’s Austin Burton says, “If any West center will complete a three-man bid for his team, it’ll be Andrew Bynum going with Kobe and Pau Gasol.”
Indeed, it is early in the season. As Phil said after the Hawk game last Sunday, they still aren’t able to complete games, as they have had stretches where they have let opponents go on runs that were often off Laker turnovers. They are also still on a learning curve as far as playing with Ron Artest, who had his best defensive game that Sunday, limiting Joe Johnson to nine points after Johnson exploded for 18 in the first quarter.
And with Gasol sidelined maybe until Sunday, Bynum has had his share of touches, consistently averaging 54.9% in field goal percentage.
And on the night the New York Yankees clinch their 27th World Championship against the Philadelphia Phillies, Andrew has improved on his double-double average, with 20 ppg. and 10.6 rpg. In Wednesday’s game against the Rockets, with our old buddy Trevor Ariza trying to one-up his old team, Drew’s line was 17 and 17, and despite getting blocked by Trevor from behind, he has shown that he is capable to pick up the slack for Pau on both ends.
Should Bynum continue this type of production, it will be a huge jump from his totals last year of 14.3 ppg. on 56% in field goal shooting.
Featuring Bynum has been in large part to his teammates’ ability to feed him the ball in areas where he can easily throw it down, or in spots where he can create for himself. Bryant and Lamar Odom, in particular, have shown the willingness to let their young center exploit his height advantage in mismatches with creative lobs and drop passes for easy scoring opportunities.
But in fairness (to the Laker fans, for the most part), this is the type of stat line to expect for a starting center with a four-year, $58 million contract. And with the loss of Yao Ming this season, it is all the more reason for Andrew to take the opportunity to step up and assert his claim to be an All-Star.
Bynum should and will be a very integral part of the Lakers’ schemes on both ends, with his size and physicality. He is expected to be that other person besides Artest to really bang down low and punish people, and as the last line of defense, he is responsible for denying opponents points in the paint.
Seeing as how he said that getting the Championship ring on opening night was “the best gift I’ve ever gotten,” he will look to have his own signature moments late in the regular season and the Playoffs.
The recent decision to no longer train with the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can be interpreted two ways; that Bynum is being disrespectful and arrogant by refusing such an honor, or that it is a step towards maturity, that he intends to figure things out on his own by working out on his own pace.
Perhaps the truth is more in the latter. After all, he has already experienced both losing and winning in the Finals. Now should be the time to show us what he has learned.