Our Lakers.com Practice Report from Thursday dealt primarily with L.A.’s excellent defense since the All-Star break, detailing how the Purple and Gold had reeled off five straight wins — now six after Friday’s win over Charlotte — while holding opponents below the 40 percent shooting mark in four of six games.
While general activity level, overall length and an understanding of the system have all contributed at a time where L.A.’s offense has been nowhere near as good, it’s fair to single out the individual contributions of Andrew Bynum.
Phil Jackson, not one to offer effusive praise after regular season wins, has identified Bynum’s effort since a poor final three games leading into the break. Jackson and his staff have been quite pleased with Bynum’s focus on the defensive end and on the glass, which Friday produced season-highs on the boards (17) and block shots (six).
Talk to Bynum, and it’s clear he’s gotten Jackson’s message.
“I just think it’s also being mindful on the defensive end, really sticking to the system and trying to do what the coaches ask,” he said. “You can’t be worried about statistics all the time, you just have to go put energy into doing the right things.”
Bynum acknowledged that he is feeling better from a physical standpoint after taking some time to build up strength since returning from offseason knee surgery that kept him out of the team’s first 24 games. Getting his own shot has been of little concern to Bynum, who’s taking less than four field goals and about four free throws per game to average 11.0 points on 57.5 percent shooting. Meanwhile, he’s averaging 10.7 boards per game, getting into double digits four times, and is blocking three shots per game.
“Team defense is what we’re focused on,” said Bynum. “Even though our offense has struggled at times, we know that we can score the basketball. We’ve done that in the past and it’s there to draw from. But defensively, the thing that puts you over the top to win championships is the ability to stop teams from scoring, get three or four stops in a row and then capitalize on it.
“We know we have Kobe (Bryant) and Pau (Gasol) who can get hot at any time and increase the lead, so we know we just have to get stops to help them out.”
“I think he’s being aggressive,” said Gasol. “I think he was upset about the way he played before the All-Star break, especially at Cleveland, so he’s come back extremely strong and very active. I’d like to see him keep that aggressiveness up, blocking shots and rebounding … it’s been excellent. If he can keep that up, he’s helping us in a big way.”
With two championship rings to prove it, Bynum’s aware of how he in particular can affect games on the defensive end due to his sheer size.
“I can make a huge impact,” he acknowledged. “I want to stop teams from getting easy buckets, and that’s what this league is about. If you can stop a team from getting easy layups, run outs and things like that and keep them in a half court offense, you’d be surprised how many teams struggle to score.”
Note: Sunday’s game tips off at 12:30 p.m. on ABC and 710 ESPN radio.