Archive for the 'Andrew Bynum' Category

Elimination Games

With a Game 4 loss at Miami in the NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder head into Thursday’s elimination Game 5 needing a win, which from a Lakers perspective brings to mind a 2012 playoff campaign that produced two Game 5 losses.

The second was a season-ending 106-90 defeat at OKC in which L.A. trailed by only three at the half, and the first an unexpected 102-99 home loss to Denver that was the first such home defeat in a Game 5 since Pau Gasol was acquired from Memphis in 2007.

From the 2007-08 playoff campaign until this season, L.A. had gone 7-0 in Game 5′s at STAPLES Center. That’s part of the context around the following comment made by Andrew Bynum ahead of that Game 5 loss to the Nuggets, in which he said close out games — like Miami now has against the Thunder — can be rather breezy.

“Close out games can actually be kinda easy,” went the exact quote. “Teams tend to fold if you play hard in the beginning, so we want to come out and establish an early lead, and protect it.”

That statement was music to the ears of Nuggets coach George Karl, who naturally put the quote in front of his players, despite the fact that from Bynum’s point of view it was a simple fact.

In fact, in Bynum’s playoff tenure since the team acquired a 7-foot Spaniard to join him up front, the Lakers had gone 12-1 in close out games, losing only Game 6 in the 2009 Western Semi’s to Houston amidst a series of W’s at home (7-0) and on the road (5-1), until going 1-2 against the Nuggets on the brink in 2012:

Lakers in Close Out Games:
2008
Round 1 Game 4: LAL 107, DEN 101
Round 2 Game 6: LAL 108, UTA 105
Round 3 Game 5: LAL 100, SAS 92

2009
Round 1 Game 5: LAL 107, UTA 96
Round 2 Game 6: HOU 95, LAL 80
Round 2 Game 7: LAL 89, HOU 70
Round 3 Game 6: LAL 119, DEN 92
Finals Game 5: LAL 99, ORL 86

2010
Round 1 Game 6: LAL 95, OKC 94
Round 2 Game 4: LAL 111, UTA 96
Round 3 Game 6: LAL 111, PHO 103
Finals Game 7: LAL 83, BOS 79

2011
Round 1 Game 6: LAL 98, NOH 80

2012
Round 1 Game 5: DEN 102, LAL 99
Round 1 Game 6: DEN 113, LAL 96
Round 1 Game 7: LAL 96, DEN 87

Thus far in the 2011-12 postseason, the Heat are 3-1 in such close out games, dropping Game 4 at New York but winning Game 5 at home, then Game 6 at Indiana and Game 7 vs. Boston.

We’ll see how it turns out starting at 6 p.m. on ABC and ESPN radio.

Andrew Bynum Named to All-NBA 2nd Team

As a exclamation point to his the best all-around season of his 7-year career, Lakers center Andrew Bynum was named to the All-NBA Second Team.

The first time All-Star was thus considered by selected members of the media as the second best center in the NBA, trailing only Orlando’s Dwight Howard, receiving 400 votes to the 476 afforded to Howard.

Missing just one game due to injury and at times dominating games on both ends of the floor, the 24-year-old put up impressive numbers: 18.7 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting with 11.8 rebounds and 1.93 blocks, ranking among league leaders in each category.

In terms of his future in Los Angeles, there is an option year on Bynum’s current contract, and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said the team plans on exercising it for the 2012-13 season. It will be the first time in years that Bynum will have not only completed a season fully healthy, but have the entire offseason to continue to work on his strength and health heading into the subsequent one.

Bynum said during his exit interview that he plans on adding a 15-18 foot jump shot, and a turnaround jumper, to his game so that he can better deal with double teams. His coach, Mike Brown, said the “sky is the limit” for how good Bynum can become, while Bynum acknowledged that the next step he can take to reach superstar status — like his teammate Kobe Bryant, who was selected to his 10th All-NBA First Team — will be to bring his dominance every night. Not just for one or two games a week, but all four.

If he’s already at All-NBA Second Team level without such consistency, the Lakers can certainly harbor some excitement about where he’ll go next.

ALL NBA FIRST TEAM:
G: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul
F: LeBron James, Kevin Durant
C: Dwight Howard

ALL NBA SECOND TEAM:
G: Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook
F: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin
C: Andrew Bynum

ALL NBA THIRD TEAM:
G: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo
F: Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony
C: Tyson Chandler

Kobe Bryant Named to All-NBA First Team

For the seventh consecutive season and 10th time in his storied NBA career, Kobe Bryant was named to the All-NBA First Team, and has now been on an All-NBA team in 14 of his 16 seasons.

Bryant, who finished percentage points below fellow First Teamer Kevin Durant for the NBA’s scoring lead with 27.9 points per game, in 2011-12 moved past Shaquille O’Neal for fifth on the league’s all-time scoring list and became the youngest player to 29,000 career points.

In 58 games of the lockout shortened season, Bryant added 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.19 steals to his 27.9 points per game in 38.5 minutes, shooting 43 percent from the field, 30.3 percent from three and 84.5 percent from the foul line.

Bryant trails only Karl Malone for all-time selections to the first team (11), and is now tied with legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit, and Jerry West. Bryant’s 14th overall All-NBA mention has him tied with Malone and Shaq for second all time behind only Abdul-Jabbar and his 15 selections to a team.

Bryant’s first appearance on an All-NBA team was in his third season, 1999, when he earned a third team nod, as he did in 2005. He was on the second team in 2000 and 2001, plus the 10 first team honors from 2002-12, minus 2005.

How does a player get chosen? Selected media members vote for two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, with Bryant having been named one of the NBA’s top two guards in 62.5 percent of his seasons, and a top six guard in 87.5 percent of his campaigns.

The 2011-12 season is the first time in three years that teammate Pau Gasol does not flank Bryant on one of the teams, but emerging center Andrew Bynum earned his first nod, making the All-NBA Second Team.

ALL NBA FIRST TEAM:
G: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul
F: LeBron James, Kevin Durant
C: Dwight Howard

ALL NBA SECOND TEAM:
G: Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook
F: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin
C: Andrew Bynum

ALL NBA THIRD TEAM:
G: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo
F: Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony
C: Tyson Chandler

Andrew Bynum: 2012 Exit Interview

In Andrew Bynum’s best season of his young career, the 24-year-old posted impressive numbers in his first All-Star campaign: 18.7 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting wtih 11.8 rebounds and 1.93 blocks. He missed only one game due to injury and looked strong physically throughout the campaign.

In the postseason, Bynum dealt with constant double teams to average 16.7 points on 47.7 percent field goals with 11.1 boards and 3.08 blocks per evening.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- The Lakers have an option year on Andrew Bynum’s contract, but have not yet said anything official. Here’s a collection of Bynum’s responses to whether or not he’ll be a Laker into next year and the future:”I don’t expect to hear my name as a possible trade, but I think anything could happen. My job is to play basketball. I love it, so it could take place anywhere. Obviously I want to be a Laker, but (who knows what will happen) … I don’t want to go anywhere … hopefully if I keep elevating my play, I won’t have to.”

- Bynum was asked several questions about his personality, and how he’ll always say what is on his mind. At times, that got him “in the news” this season, but he maintained that he’s going to simply say what’s on his mind and be honest, and not worry about how it’s interpreted as it’s out of his control. “I like telling the truth, what’s on my mind and how I feel … people will read three to four words and take what they want from there. My statements are a bit long-winded at times, and the whole statement should be heard … I don’t plan on monitoring my comments … I don’t really care if you guys criticize me. I have to go play regardless of what you guys write or do.” Have to respect his honesty; many athletes, and people in general, don’t say what’s on their mind and stand by it. He’s not malevolent in any way about this, he just is going to say what he thinks.

- On taking his game to the next level: Bynum recognizes that what makes someone a superstar is being able to bring it every night, not just most. He acknowledged that despite a solid all-around season, there were spots in which he didn’t bring his best effort, and that’s what’s most difficult. He understands that to be a super star, there can’t be off nights. “It’s hard for anyone to focus at all times; that’s what makes people get to that superstar status, when they’re able to do that four out of five games. That’s the next level for me.”

- On the major importance of his health: “I stayed healthy, which was a big thing. While the shortened season was a lot harder on the body and not having time to recover, it also kind of keeps you in rhythm.” This was the first season in four that Bynum came into fully healthy, and then went on to maintain his health throughout. “My body feels great,” he continued. “I have a solid plan that’s been working for me. In July and August, I’ll be in Atlanta, training. It’s great because I get to add to my game. I don’t have to worry about surgeries, talking time to rebuild myself. It’s definitely a different feel (from the past).

- Furthermore, Bynum is “most definitely” considering the treatment that Kobe received in Germany, not because he’s hurt – he’s not – but because it can generally improve things: “Nothing feels wrong … it’s supposed to regenerate tissue and stuff like that.”

- Bynum acknowledged that things got more difficult in the playoffs as he was literally double- and triple-teamed throughout the playoffs by Denver and Oklahoma City as soon as he caught a pass. “I guess it’s a sign of respect.” Bynum said he’d take that into account in the offseason as he works on his game, and plans to come back with a 15-18 foot jump shot, in addition to a turnaround jumper so that he shoot away from the double (sort of like Kobe does so well). With his soft touch, he’s certainly capable of doing so, and if you watch him shoot in practice, he routinely drills that shot.

- Bynum loves Pau Gasol. “We’ve grown a lot on and off the court … when we both come and play strong it’s tough on the other team.” Gasol really helped Bynum grow this season, taking on a facilitating role and posting up far less often in order to get Bynum increased touches and put him in better positions. Bynum certainly appreciates that.

- Bynum said his relationship with Mike Brown grew “a lot” over the season, as Brown had an open door policy and Bynum could express himself when he wanted to. That was different from Bynum’s relationship with Phil Jackson, which he implied was less open.

- Like the rest of his teammates, Bynum laments the two games he felt the Lakers “gave away” to Oklahoma City. Without discrediting how hard the Thunder worked to win Games 2 and 4, it simply feels like a huge missed opportunity for Bynum. “This group definitely can win … this team is capable.”

- Bynum on his relationship with Kobe: “Not much more (developed) than it has in the past. We were cool on and off the court; he always tries to motivate me and show me little things whether it’s watching tape or taking care of your body.” Bynum said both making the All-Star team was good for them, but Kobe’s always trying to give him confidence and motivation.

- Bynum said that at times he was great, at times poor in the season, but overall felt it was very successful (which it was, just look at his numbers and how many games he dominated despite a few down spells). He went on: “It sucks to have ended in this fashion, but there’s room to grow and now I’m focusing on that. Bynum said he can see himself transitioning into a superstar, with bringing his A game consistently being the major factor.

- Bynum reflected back to the Dallas series in the 2011 playoffs, relaying that it taught him that you can’t underestimate your opponent. He cited Dirk Nowitzki’s ridiculous performance (“He was phenominal”) but implied he and the Lakers didn’t approach that series the right way (or maybe they were just exhausted after three straight trips to the Finals). The series vs. OKC, on the other hand: “We shot ourselves in the foot. We played well enough to win in a lot of those games; to come out with that result is tough, but all you can learn from it is to always be in the moment and staying focused on the next play.”

- Bynum acknowledged that he has lots of grey hair as a 24-year-old, smiling as he explained it was better to have hair than not. Both of his parents are all grey, apparently.

- In conclusion, Bynum said his No. 1 priority would be to stay in Los Angeles. He’d much prefer being a Laker than shaking up his life by being traded to another team.

Paint Protection Paramount

A chat with any one of LAL’s coaches throughout its ongoing Round 1 matchup with Denver quickly renders the phrase “transition defense.”

There’s no question that transition D has been a key in the series LAL currently lead 3-2, but the Lakers lost Game 5 102-99 for a different reason: lack of paint protection.

The Nuggets scored 58 of their 102 points in the paint, despite getting only 19 fast break points, meaning Denver repeatedly got to or near the rim despite LAL most often being back on defense, if with some notable exceptions (see: Kenneth Faried layups).

LAL blocked five shots (three by Pau Gasol), but the deep rim protection simply wasn’t there. This in stark contrast to Game 1, for example, when the Lakers swatted 15 shots towards a 15-point win, led by Andrew Bynum’s all-time-playoff-high tying 10 blocks. It’s not a coincidence that in that game, the Nuggets scored only 44 points in the paint to LAL’s 64.

Andre Miller, JaVale McGee and Arron Afflalo may have put a tent up in the Los Angeles paint in Game 5.

“I thought (Denver) came out, they hit first and they continued to hit throughout the course of game,” said Mike Brown. “I thought they were more physical than us … our paint protection on the defense end of the floor is not good right now.”

In LAL’s film room, Bynum may take the lion’s share of the blame, as the discrepancy in not so much his actual blocks but the amount of shots he contested appears quite large from where it could be when he’s at his defensive best (i.e. Game 1). He’s admittedly been frustrated with how difficult it’s been to get the basketball with any space on offense as Denver commits two defenders his way immediately upon the catch, but the Lakers don’t want that to affect his performance on the other end.

The last two times Bynum’s paint defense was notably discussed came at Golden State (March 27) and vs. Oklahoma City (April 22), both resulting in his being benched during crunch time. In a glass half full sense, Bynum’s response to that poor effort against OKC was the Game 1 triple-double against Denver. He wasn’t involved much offensively due to constant double and triple teams, yet made a major impact defensively.

Even with that said, much of Wednesday’s conversation revolved around Bynum’s post-practice comments in which he said that closing out games can be “easy,” which Nuggets coach George Karl ran a mile with prior to Game 4. Bynum’s central point was that if you jump on a team facing elimination early in the game, they can lose motivation … which has actually been true, in a sense, for the Lakers.

LAL had gone 12-1 in close out games since acquiring Pau Gasol, so Bynum was speaking from experience, which goes in contrast to Karl’s 22-24 record as a coach in such close out opportunities (thus his postgame disagreement with Bynum, where he said: “It’s the hardest thing in the world to win the fourth game”).

Kobe Bryant agreed with Bynum (“close out games can be easy sometimes,” in his words), with both conceding that this particular one against Denver obviously was not. Regardless, is bulletin board material really necessary for a team facing elimination?

Bryant wasn’t so sure.

“Did it pump them up? Probably,” he said. “Were they going to come out with that kind of energy anyway? Probably. We didn’t execute. They obviously played harder than we did. So it’s a lesson to learn.”

No matter what, LAL’s fate will be pretty closely associated with how well, or how poorly, Bynum protects the paint.

The next test comes on Thursday night in Denver.

Bynum Earns 3rd Western POW Award

For the third time in his career and second time this season, Andrew Bynum was named the Western Conference Player of the Week after leading the Lakers to a 4-0 record despite Kobe Bryant’s absence due to his shin injury.

In leading the Lakers to road wins over New Orleans and San Antonio, and home defeats of Denver and Dallas, Bynum averaged 21.8 points, a league-best 16.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks:

April 9 @ New Orleans: Scored 19 points on 7 of 10 FG’s with 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
April 11 @ San Antonio: Scored 16 points with 30 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in a 98-84 win. It was just the 20th time in franchise history that a Laker grabbed at least 30 rebounds, the other four players to do so – George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – all Hall of Famers.
April 13 vs. Denver: Scored 30 points with eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks in a 103-97 win over the Nuggets.
April 15 vs. Dallas: Went for 23 points, 16 rebounds and two dimes as the Lakers topped the Mavericks 112-108 in OT.

His coach, Mike Brown, was particularly pleased with Bynum’s effort against Dallas, thanks to his dominance on defense.

“He was an absolute monster today,” said Brown. “I’m not talking about his 23 and 16, but he was a monster in the paint today in pick and rolls and lastly, rebounding the basketball. He was unbelievable. I think I enjoyed watching him more today than any other night because of his dominance, or presence, in that lane on both ends of the floor.

“Every rebound he got, he went and got. They didn’t fall in his hands, this is a very good box out team. He went and got every single rebound that he collected.”

Bynum’s last Western POW came for games played from March 12 to March 18, when he led the Lakers to a 3-1 week behind averages of 27.5 points and 14.8 rebounds while shooting 66.5 percent from the field.

His first career POW honors came for the week of 1/19/09 to 1/25/09, when he posted averages of 23.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.25 blocks in helping lead the Lakers to a 4-0 week.

Bynum Sprains Left Ankle

With 1:48 left in the first quarter of L.A.’s Sunday evening contest against Golden State, Andrew Bynum sprained his left ankle while landing on the foot of a teammate going for a rebound, and missed the rest of the game.

X-rays came back negative, however, allowing the Lakers to classify the injury as “moderate.” Bynum will be re-evaluated on Monday, with the team’s next game coming on Tuesday evening against New Jersey.

Bynum missed both shots he attempted in the first quarter, finishing the game scoreless with three rebounds.

**UPDATE**: We caught up with Bynum on his way out of the arena, and he said that while sore, his ankle was “fine,” and that he would “definitely” play on Tuesday. Officially, we will have to see how he feels on Monday and at shootaround prior to the Nets matchup, but his positive feeling is certainly good news for the Lakers.

Bynum Named Western Conference Player of the Week

The Los Angeles Lakers’ Andrew Bynum today has been named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, March 12, through Sunday, March 18.

Bynum led the Lakers to a 3-1 week, which included wins over the Grizzlies and Timberwolves. Bynum led the West in rebounding (14.8 rpg) and placed second in scoring (27.5) while shooting .665 from the field (fourth in the Conference). Bynum collected a point-rebound double-double in all four of the Lakers’ games, including a 37-point, 16-rebound in a 116-111 win over Memphis on March 13.

Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
March 13 @ Memphis: Scored 37 points and added 16 rebounds in a 116-111 win over the Grizzlies.
March 14 @ New Orleans: Tallied 25 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a 107-101 win over the Hornets.
March 18 vs. Utah: Tallied 33 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks during a 103-99 loss to the Jazz.

Bynum Gets the Ball

With 15.5 seconds left in L.A.’s Sunday contest against Boston, the Lakers held a one-point lead over their arch rivals, and looked not to Kobe Bryant nor Pau Gasol to seal the deal, but Andrew Bynum.

It was the team’s collective defense and then Kobe at the other end that put them in the position to get a win, which was in serious jeopardy after Ray Allen’s three-pointer put Boston up 94-89 with 2:41 to play. L.A. would go on to force six Celtics misses, holding Boston without a single point in the final two minutes and change, while doing this on offense:

1) Bryant fading jumper from 10 feet, 2:16 (91-94)
2) Bryant lob to Bynum for a tap in, 1:17 (93-94)
3) Bryant 14-foot pullup J, 41.7 (95-94)

After Brandon Bass missed a jumper, the Lakers had the ball, up one, with 32 seconds on the clock. During the time out, Bryant volunteered a play to Mike Brown, suggesting the Lakers get the ball to Bynum, who was being defended by Kevin Garnett. As Bryant explained after the game, Garnett remains a fantastic defender, but simply doesn’t have the mass to deal with Bynum.

“If the ball’s in my hands I’m going to put myself in a position to not get double teamed,” Bryant added. “In that situation I was trying to throw the ball to Andrew and put him in that situation I am normally in where the defense has to make a decision.”

With Bryant at the top of the key, the ball was swung to World Peace on the wing directly in front of Boston’s bench, with Bynum flashing to the middle of the paint. Peace floated a pass into Bynum, who simply caught it, turned to his left and dropped a right-handed hook over Garnett and into the hoop with 15.5 seconds to go.

One final stop, keyed by Gasol’s flashing out to keep Ray Allen from attempting a game-tying three, and Bryant getting apiece of Paul Pierce’s subsequent attempt, and L.A. had ridden an 8-0 run to a 97-94 victory.

Here’s what some of the Lakers had to say about the stretch, focusing on Bynum’s clutch bucket and Kobe’s idea to make it happen:

Andrew Bynum: “It was crazy. Kobe came up with that play. He said they’re not going to know what to do, and sure enough, the way they designed it, Kevin Garnett started guarding me on the top side by the three-point line. So, it definitely worked.”

Kobe Bryant: “Andrew just did his thing. He’s a player you have to focus on*.”
*When asked if the play was his idea, Kobe said: “100 percent. What do you think it was made up?”

Derek Fisher: “Not just from that decision today, I just think that Kobe has always continued in that evolution in terms of doing different things to try to get us to the top and trying to get us to a championship level team. I think that today is just another example of him realizing what it takes for us to win and to trust Andrew in that setting was huge for us … I believe we have always been pretty dangerous down the stretch because it’s difficult to decide what to do. In the past it has been Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, myself, Kobe, Metta World Peace and it’s tough for teams to make a choice. Kobe has obviously always trusted his abilities but he has shown trust in his teammates at the most important time and so he did that again today.”

Pau Gasol: “It was a good sign of something positive. I think that we recognize and Kobe recognized that Andrew had an advantage and it was to hard stop and it was unexpected, probably and Boston probably didn’t expect it either because we are so used to Kobe taking that last shot no matter what. Andrew stepped up, he had a nice play, he had a very high percentage shot and scored.”

Mike Brown: “[Kobe] has suggested things where, because guys have been paying attention to him, that the ball go here or there. That to me is a mark of a great player.”

Bynum Ready to Play Wednesday

After receiving a routine Synvisc injection in his right knee as part of normal and continuing treatment to maintain the knee’s health on Friday, Andrew Bynum did not participate in Saturday’s Western Conference All-Star practice, and played only 5:31 in the first quarter of Sunday’s All-Star game.

“It was planned this way,” Bynum told the Orange County Register’s Janis Carr. “I decided to play just a little bit to experience it … If I waited to do it (rest) Monday, (the knee) would have been an issue.”

Bynum did manage three rebounds, a steal, an assist and a block with his 0-for-3 FG’s in the five minutes he played, but was more concerned about being healthy for Wednesday’s Lakers game against Minnesota at Staples Center.