Bynum buys in
By MATT "MONEY" SMITH
FOXSportsWest.com | PRIME TICKET
Feb. 11, 2011
If you've listened to our Petros and Money Show just a tiny bit this week, it's likely you heard me voicing my opinion in a rather aggressive manner on the non-story that is the Carmelo Anthony-Andrew Bynum mess. And understand that's exactly what it is. Just as I wrote here on Wednesday, it's a complete mess. It's not news; it's not even speculation. Plain and simple, it's a bald-faced lie meant to generate conversation, radio listenership, television viewers and web traffic. Thanks to Mitch Kupchack suggesting in a conversation with Scott Howard Cooper of NBA.com that a trade wasn't out of the realm of possibility, and Magic Johnson following up with his opinion of what the Lakers need, (an injection of energy and new blood) the pieces simply fit together to dig up an old story with little merit as a follow-up to two rather harmless statements.
While the end result from the work of fiction won't net the Lakers a perennial All-Star in exchange for their young and promising, but oft-injured big man, it did serve a purpose that could be meaningful for the team moving forward. Motivation for Bynum to play harder, to play with purpose and to play with a message to management that trading him to any team for any other player in the league would be a grave mistake.
I remember when Adrian Beltre was in town playing for the Dodgers. If you were to pull up his game logs and look at the time period between late June and late July, right around the trade deadline, he would post his best numbers of the season. Just when you thought Beltre might be headed out of town, he would go on a tear, the fans would celebrate his prodigious talent, and he'd manage to stick around in Los Angeles for the rest of the season. No surprise, his best two years in the majors were both contract years, this past season with the Red Sox and in 2004 with the Dodgers, both performances that earned him nearly $100 million contracts.
After watching Bynum in his first contest since all of the chatter about Nuggets and Anthony started, it's hard not to recognize that he played his best basketball this season. Perhaps Bynum was sending a message to Phil Jackson, his teammates and most importantly to the front office. "I hear you loud and clear, I am not an untouchable. Please keep me around, feel free to pick up that $16 million option coming in 2012. Hope to see you in the NBA Finals this June." The Lakers length was certainly the difference in the contest against the Celtics Thursday night, as it is against most of their opponents. Bynum's 16 points, 9 rebounds, and one blocked shot were a major part of the Lakers +11 rebound margin and +18 points in the paint.
But Bynum's presence was bigger than just the statistics. Because he played a whopping 34 minutes, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were able to go heads up with Kevin Garnett. So instead of being pushed around by Kendrick Perkins, Gasol and LO outplayed the former MVP with Gasol doubling his point total and Odom pulling in more rebounds and blocking three shots, while both combined to hold KG to just 4-13 shooting. And it even carried over to Kobe Bryant's production.
Bryant struggled in the first half, but with the bigs carrying the load, the team stayed within striking distance and built a monster lead in the third and fourth quarters before finally running out of gas. Enter Bryant at the 5:03 mark, with the Lakers' lead having been trimmed to just three. Bryant promptly went on a tear, scoring six straight unanswered points to extend the Lakers' lead to nine points, and the Lakers never looked back from there.
Sure it's only one regular season game against a severely undermanned Celtics team. But the Lakers made a statement. Something you could argue they hadn't done all season. Add to that the way they made it serve notice to the rest of the league that maybe their difference maker, Bynum, has arrived for the rest of the season.