Let more talk of Andrew Bynum distract from that shiny red (panic) button
The message was pretty clear Tuesday afternoon after the Lakers finished practice in El Segundo:
"Pack it in, we're totally screwed!"
I kid, of course, but the purple and gold did spend a lot of time fielding questions that, boiled down to their collective essence, essentially amount to, "So really, are you guys, like, you know, totally freaking out?"
Said Kobe (By the way, no video of 24 today, because for the first time all season in the crush of media my camera view of Bryant was completely obstructed by the perfectly manicured hair of Jim Hill. It was like a total eclipse, swallowing up Kobe's head. Frankly, I'm surprised this has never happened before.) while after Monday's loss Game 2 becomes critical, that's not necessarily a bad thing. "Every game for me is a must win. Game 1 was a must win. That's because you want to win them all. We'll be ready to go tomorrow. That's for sure."
Last year, he noted, the team "kind of had a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. It feels good to be tested. If you're going to be a champion, you've got to be tested. You've got to answer those bells, you've got to answer the call."
"We just played really bad. We shot the ball poorly, and know we can perform better."
Phil Jackson (see the vid below) was even more succinct. "The sky," he said, "is not falling."
In short, nobody's going to pull a Chip Diller (above) and completely lose his *@&&^#)*.
Thus there will be no sweeping changes in the wake of Game 1. "We play our game until we know that our game isn't good enough to beat them," Jackson said.
Not that there weren't flaws in the product. "Our relationship to each other now, communication, is about passing the ball and being crisp with it, and putting people in rhythm on their shots," Jackson said. "Those kinds of things. That's where our game lacked it's precision. The other aspect of it is that we messed around on the defense and allowed them to do exactly what they wanted to do, get the ball where they wanted to have it, and do the things they wanted to do with the basketball."
Most of the guys, whether Derek Fisher, Kobe, and Lamar Odom, spoke of execution and precision, two things that were certainly lacking Monday night. But for "Hey, that's interesting!" value, Andrew Bynum was probably today's big winner. First, he was wearing a black sleeve over his knee brace, because he was told last that opposing players complained they were being scratched and scraped by the thing. Kind of like that one car in Grease that had the blades coming out of the rims, I guess.
More importantly, though, he spoke about his knee and how it's impacting his play. As he'll often do, Bynum said some reasonably provocative stuff, whether intentionally or not. The biggest? The brace, he noted, isn't really inhibiting him, making it tough to cut and pivot, among other things. "That's just the knee in general. It's just not ready."
Bynum, who it should be noted is clearly not the world's greatest self-diagnostician, put his health and strength at about "85, 90" percent. He can't quite explode the way he'd like. "Not right now, but it's just part of coming back from injury. It takes a while." He can, though, try to run Yao a little more when they're matched up together, adding a little more speed in an effort to establish better position on both ends and making Houston's really tall center work.
Bynum mentioned during the Utah series and over last week's resting period that he feels more PT would speed the process of helping him find a better rhythm. I asked Bynum, given all of his excitement about returning for the postseason, if he's having trouble adjusting to the role he's been given. "Part of it is my fault, so I can't be that frustrated. Until I stop getting in foul trouble, I really won't be able to answer that." It's good to see him take some responsibility there, instead of simply blaming the refs (for example, he admitted his first foul Monday night- a reach on Yao in the first minute of play- was just a really bad play as opposed to a ticky-tack call).
Bynum said PJ has a "comfort zone" with Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, understandable given "that's the same team that got to the Finals last year. He feels comfortable playing that unit." I do wonder, though, if Bynum has decided that he can't play himself into a larger role during the postseason. "I think it (meaning his spot in the rotation) is pretty well established, to be honest."
Jackson has mentioned a few times that defensive issues, particularly Bynum's work on the screen and roll, are still a problem. Bynum didn't seem in lock-step with that thinking. "I feel it coming along. I don't see it changing when I leave. It's not like the ball gets stopped, or things like that. Its just something that he and I have to work out."
As both Andy and I have mentioned a few times regarding 17, honesty is not always the best policy. At least not when talking to us.
For his part, Jackson said he thought Bynum played "okay" last night. "Actually shot the ball as well as anybody, but it's about the activity level that we need to have. He's got to be much more active as a defender, not letting Yao catch the ball where he wants to, and those types of things. He's got to improve that, because Yao will catch it and throw it back out, and reposition in a better position. Drew has a tendency just to stand behind and play defense because of his size. That doesn't work against Yao."
Defense and rebounding, Jackson continues to say, are the key for Bynum to earn more floor time. I suspect, though, that barring foul issues Gasol and Odom will continue to eat up more minutes. There's just not a lot of wiggle room at this time of year. It's reasonable to expect Bynum to need time to round into form- remember how long it took earlier in the year, and that was with a training camp- but time isn't a option in the playoffs.
I'd love to see Bynum's leash get a little longer (more specifically, for Bynum to lengthen it with his play), but I understand the hesitation to just let him roam free.
Finally, before we get to the video, I'm going to check when I get home to see if a little piece of me makes it on to the news tonight. During the playoffs, interviews will often be held in the media room as opposed to the practice court. When everyone moved in preparation to speak with Pau and PJ, I hung out on the floor to talk with Jim Cleamons (I'll pass those quotes on before Game 2, for sure). When I came back, I was greeted with this scene:
Yep, that giant pile of crap in front of all the mics? That's my stuff! My camera and computer bags! Nobody bothered to move it. Nobody may want to put me on TV, but at least my gear might make it. Maybe I'll start trying to put other things I own in these tableaus. Send secret messages to people. Beats Facebook.
Anyway, the moving pictures:
Derek Fisher, on defensive issues: