As the Lakers get set for what’s always a tricky road matchup in Portland, take a look at Andrew Bynum’s averages in three games since returning from suspension: 22.7 points, 17.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 62% FG’s.
With Portland always circling Lakers games on the home calendar, L.A. has managed to win only four of the last 20 contests in Rip City, including a 2-8 mark in the last 10, even as the Lakers ultimately advanced to three NBA Finals. They did manage a split last season, and could certainly use another dominant post performance from their 24-year-old center on Thursday if they’re to get off on the right foot in 2012.
Bynum credited his fast start to an increased number of touches he’s getting this season in Mike Brown’s system, but his production isn’t a surprise to teammates that have seen him dominate practices, especially since he came into the season fully healthy for the first time in years.
“We all know the amount of talent that he has, and he’s really worked on it,” said Kobe Bryant after Bynum’s first 20-20 effort in Tuesday’s win over Houston. “The thing that I like about him is that he has an engine inside of him and he wants to do well. He wants to dominate. He has ambition to be great. I think that’s the biggest positive about him aside from all of the physical attributes.”
Against a Blazers front line that is quite long if not wide, Bynum will again have a major advantage under the hoop. Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge get the majority of low post minutes, with Camby starting at center and Aldridge sliding inside once Camby goes to the bench, while veteran Kurt Thomas pitches in off the bench. Camby is listed at 235 pounds, Aldridge 240 and Thomas 230, compared to Bynum’s 285. That’s a significant difference.
Lakers head coach Mike Brown said he expects double-doubles on the regular from Bynum, and even if 20-20 is a bit much to ask for, Brown only expects Bynum to improve as he gets in better game shape.
“He was very productive in the thirty-eight minutes he played,” said Brown, who left his center in longer than any other Laker. “His conditioning is getting a little better and if he can ever get it to a point where it’s great…oh my gosh.”
Generally speaking, Brown has been very pleased with how focused and energetic his team has been at practice, but thinks they’ve been a bit sluggish in games, perhaps due to how much time they’ve spent in the practice gym. As such, Brown gave the team Wednesday off, save for the flight to the Pacific Northwest, hoping that his players will have more energy for Thursday’s tip.
Bynum actually struggled in two games against Portland last season, the Blazers going small to try and keep him off the floor, but Brown does not want to see Bynum play too many less or more minutes than 34.
We’ll see how it plays out starting at 7:30 p.m. on KCAL 9 and 710 ESPN radio.