NBA coaches make right choice to select on Pau Gasol and pass on Andrew Bynum for All-Star game
It didn't take a wild imagination for this scenario to play out.
It won't become official until today at 4 p.m. PST on TNT, but The Times' Mike Bresnahan has already reported that Lakers Pau Gasol will play in the 2010 All-Star game, while Lakers center Andrew Bynum and Clippers center Chris Kaman will miss the cut.
Kaman had already entered the season omitted from the ballot, and then dropped league-leading numbers among centers (20.2 points and nine boards per game). And then, more out of his tendency to shoot from the hip than actually being paranoid, was his usual candid self a week ago when he was asked if Gasol and Bynum deserve an All-Star bid.
"I don't think Gasol should be in it at all,'' Kaman told NBA Fanhouse when asked if he would be disappointed if Gasol, who starts at power forward for the Lakers, is slid over to be the backup center when West coaches vote for All-Star reserves. "He's only played like 20 games [through Wednesday he played 29 out of the Lakers' 46 games] this year. I think there should be a number of games you should play. I think you should have to play like 80% of the games."
"It shouldn't be 50% [of games a player has logged] over a guy who plays 90% and who has better numbers. Not just me. Zach Randolph, a power forward, he has better numbers" than Gasol. "But he's not on the Lakers.''
And as far as Bynum?
"I think I'm more deserving than Andrew Bynum,'' Kaman said. "I'd be disappointed if they put Pau Gasol in front of me. If they put Bynum [ahead of me], it would be disappointing but it would be easier to accept.''
That's because Gasol's stint so far this season has consisted of two hamstring injuries that sidelined him for a total of 17 games. He injured his right hamstring before the season started and missed the first 11 contests, and then injured his left hamstring and missed six consecutive games this month.
No doubt, Kaman was slighted. Even if the Clippers are 20-25 and recently lost to the New Jersey Nets, of all teams, the Clippers wouldn't even be in a position to contend if not for his presence. But the same reason why Kaman deserves a bid (he consistently helped the team) is the same reason why the league coaches made the right call in giving All-Star bids to Gasol (he consistently helped the team) and passing on Bynum (he showed "potential," as always). Gasol will join Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who is making his 12th All-Star appearance, on the West's squad for the game Feb. 14 in Dallas.
True, Gasol missed 17 games, but that absence only illustrated further why the Lakers value his presence so much. The Lakers have gone 24-5 when he's on the court and 11-6 when he's been on the sidelines.
Sure there's been some lapses, most notably in the Lakers' 93-87 loss to Cleveland last week where he was muscled inside and limited offensively to 13 points on five of 13 shooting. But his clip of 17.6 points and 11 rebounds per game come because of great chemistry with Bryant and an in-depth understanding of the triangle offense. Gasol shouldn't be penalized for getting hurt -- it's an area he can't control -- so his absence shouldn't have even been a factor in the decision, unless of course he hadn't played a single game.
As for Bynum -- although he's coming off Wednesday's game against the Indiana Pacers with a season-high 27 points and 12 rebounds, those strong performances have only come within the last month and at the beginning of the season. He posted more than 20 points and 12 rebounds during Gasol's 11-game absence, but those numbers took a December dip. It was part of a slide where Bynum went 23 consecutive games without a double double, for varied reasons ranging from mostly Gasol's presence to sinus, asthma and knee issues.
Fortunately for Bynum, he didn't deviate much from the four double doubles he posted during Gasol's second absence in six games. Since Gasol's return, Bynum has had double figures in six of the last seven games, the latest performance against Indiana marking the first time the two each had at least 20 points and 10 boards all season. Aside from the fact that showcase came after the ballots were filled out from league coaches, it also didn't represent Bynum's complete body of work.
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Photo: Pau Gasol looks for a shot around Roy Hibbert of the Pacers during Wednesday's 118-96 Lakers victory. Both players finished with 21 points. Credit: Darron Cummings/Associated Press.