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Andrew Bynum's left Achilles strain dominates discussion after Lakers' 104-96 victory over Minnesota Timberwolves

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The image of Lakers center Andrew Bynum slightly limping his way toward the locker room served as the latest visual Lakers fans remember all too well.

He had missed 46 games in the 2007-08 season because of a left-knee injury. He remained sidelined for 32 games last season because of a right-knee injury. And now this. Bynum strained his left Achilles' tendon while running down early in the third quarter Friday against Minnesota. With only 10:09 remaining in the period, Bynum left the court and went to the locker room to have his injury iced. Lakers forward Pau Gasol acknowledged the team couldn't help but feel a hint of devastation as Bynum walked toward the Staples Center tunnel.

"For a second it is because you feel bad and you're worried," Gasol said when asked if the team felt demoralized. "You're concerned about your teammate. When you see a teammate walking out of the floor and going to the locker room, you notice that there's something wrong and something bad happened."

There was another bad thing that almost happened. Bynum's 11 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes beforehand had helped give the team a double-digit lead for most of the first half. As soon as he left, the Lakers held a seven-point advantage only to see the Timberwolves take a two-point lead with 4:30 remaining in the quarter.

The Lakers (51-18) ultimately took the game with a 104-96 victory over Minnesota. The win marked the team's fifth consecutive victory and officially granted the Lakers a playoff spot. But that was correctly overshadowed by Bynum's injury. Although there is no definitive timetable and will be evaluated at Saturday's practice, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Bynum will "probably miss a little while." Bad timing, considering Bynum had averaged 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 56.8% shooting this month, including a four-game stretch where he posted 20 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on a clip at 63.3%. Bynum, his teammates and Jackson this week had frequently talked about his resgurgent play, most recently Friday in Jackson's pre-game press conference where he said Bynum will become an All-Star center if he stays healthy. Another topic involved one I mentioned to Jackson on whether Bynum had learned to overcome the psychological component of worrying about his injury history.

"Just going to Memphis to play a game in January was a concern for Andrew. He had a six-point night or something like that," Jackson said. "He's carried the injuries he's had against Memphis the last two seasons with him on that road trip. Even though one was at home and the other one was in Memphis, they both happened in January. It was a mindset. He had to overcome just that thought or that suspicion that hit him. I think he's pretty clear with that now."

With Bynum's latest injury, it's unclear whether that fear has emerged. He was not in the locker room when I arrived following Jackson's post-game press conference. But the Lakers will soon find out whether they can psychologically and tangibly absorb Bynum's injury for however long he'll be sidelined.

"The guys on this team have played together for a while so that's not a problem," said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. "You just want to make sure that guys stay healthy and stay in tune with what we're doing."

The reactions from Jackson and his players presented an interesting dichotomy. Even though Jackson anticipate Bynum having a long-term absence, Jackson didn't sound too concerned. "We really know how to play without Andrew," he said.

There's plenty of examples to illustrate that. Barely five minutes into a game last season against the Memphis Grizzlies, Bryant collided with Bynum, who immediately yelled, pounding the court with his fist as he stayed down for about two minutes. Bynum sprained his right knee, an injury that ultimately sidelined him for 32 games. Yet, the Lakers were able to go 4-0 without Bynum the remainder of the trip. It featured an offense that included at least three players scoring double digits in those four games. And against Memphis, the Lakers responded to a six-point half-time deficit with 36 third-quarter points. Then there's of course the Lakers winning the 2009 championship without Bynum as well.

But unlike Jackson, Gasol and Lakers forward Lamar Odom wanted no part of thinking that far ahead.

"I don't really want to think about that," Gasol said. "It'll be hard to miss Andrew for any period of time. He had been playing really well too."

"Hopefully he'll be all right," Odom said. "Injuries are part of being a sportsmen. Hopefully it's nothing serious."

And as far as the game itself, Jackson and Gasol/Odom disagreed on the effort there as well. Unlike Gasol's assertion, Jackson said Bynum's injury didn't hinder the team's play. Instead, Jackson ticked off items such as forcing the issue, Gasol's tonsilitis, Derek Fisher's injury in the "groin/hip area" that Jackson said contributed to his 16 minutes on zero of six shooting, Odom's shoulder injury and the team's mark of 41.5% from the field.

"It was hard for us to stay focused tonight," Jackson said. "I felt like we were distracted by a variety of things."  

When asked if he saw any distractions like Jackson did, Odom suggested the assertion was part of the Zen Master's plan.

"Nothing. He's just throwing you guys off. There were no distractions tonight."

"So are you getting us back on track?," I asked.

"Yeah," Odom said chuckling. "We didn't have any distractions."

Regardless of the reason, the Lakers didn't play their best basketball. Minnesota (14-56) remained in contention until the fourth quarter, but the double-digit lead wasn't warranted enough for the starters to rest. That's something that should've been accomplished particularly with the team's upcoming five-game trip. The Lakers allowed Minnesota to score 58 points in the paint, 21 second-chance points and center Darko Milicic to score a season-high 16 points and tie a season-high 12 rebounds.

Still, especially with Bynum's possible absence, there were some encouraging signs. Four starters in Kobe Bryant (22 points) Gasol (17), Bynum (11) and Ron Artest (10) cracked double figures. The bench scored 42 points, led by Odom (18) and Jordan Farmar (12). Bryant's season-high 13 assists contributed to a continuously effective inside game and played to everyone's strengths, a necessary quality for the team to have with Bynum's status in question.

"If some of those guys hit their shots, he would've had 20 assists instead of 13," Jackson said. "It's always a good sight and good energy for the team. I like it that it's out of the context of the offense. Sometimes he gets carried away out there and doesn't do it within the context of the offense."

Regardless, some of the distractions Jackson cited shouldn't appear to be an issue. Those areas include Gasol's assessment on his tonsilitis: "I'm still fighting through it. But I definitely feel well physically and ready to face this last part of the season." It involves Odom's evaluation on his shoulder: "It's good. If it was hurt, I wouldn't share it with you. It's nothing against you." And it surrounds Jackson's take on Fisher's injury: "He's going to be all right."

And as far as whether Bynum's injury would serve as a distraction? Gasol says the team will address it if the time comes.

"I'm really upset," Gasol said. :Hopefully it won't be anything and if he's out, it'll only take a couple games. We need him back."

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Credit: Lakers center Andrew Bynum is called for a blocking foul as he tries to cut off the drive of Timberwolves guard Wayne Ellington in the first half Friday night. Photo: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times.

 
Comments () | Archives (13)

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I'm trying not to freak out right now. I'm doing okay because it's 4AM here and I've just left an environment of drunken gangsters and drug addicts... and I'm tired.

Okay. I'm going to go to sleep and wake up tomorrow and everything's going to be fine. It's just a strain. No big deal. You play through strains. No big deal.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!!

Media reports from the Laker locker room reported that coach Jackson was very nervous before the game. One of his star players Derek Fisher could not practice and was badly needed as the Lakers had a crucial game tonight against one of the Western powers the feared Minnesota Timberwolves. Luckily the gritty veteran was able to start and helped the Lakers go on to victory. Fisher had an impressive night shooting 0 for 6 and contributing one big assist.

Posted by: DFish

I giggle to myself thinking that you might have something substantive to say, and you always illustrate otherwise.

How does it feel being the butt of jokes by fans of the lakers? Lol.

Best wishes to Socks on a speedy recovery.

Hope you feel fantastic by Tuesday.

Here we go again :(

I'm praying for Andrew's speedy recovery. Hope nothing's serious.

Get well soonest Drew.

BTW, good win. It's just sad that AB is hurt again, as they say, that's part of the game. We'll have to deal with it.


LAKERS ALL DAY!!!

I read on wiki that sprains are caused by muscle fatigue which leads to weakening of area and thus a sprain. It can also be caused by not warming up. WHO THE HELL IS THE PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING THE PLAYERS FRESH AND KEEP THEIR JOINTS WARMED UP. Please please please don't overwork Bynum. He's not the kind of player that should be overworked. He is a huge guy who takes longer to heal and gets twice as tired running the same distance than a Jordan Farmar. He's carrying 280 pounds!!!! 2 simple rules to career success: 1. WARM UP JOINTS!! 2. DON'T OVERWORK THESE BIG GUYS!!!!!! GET IT???

I've been quite annoyed with Bynum this season and have sarcastically been referring to him as "All Star" when he disappears in the second halves. However, I was pleased to see him playing really hard these past games but then I had forgotten that as sure as death and taxes: as soon as the kid starts to play really impressive the obligatory injury shows up. So count him out for the playoffs - even if he shows up on the court.

These playoffs will be ugly folks...

WOW! I am in Carmel with Mrs. LakerTom and couldn't watch the game (forgot my wireless card and no hard connection in room) but was following the play by play and box score on my blackberry. I must have missed the injury but saw that Drew got a rebound in the second half and then nothing. That's when I started to worry.

Man, I sure hope it is not a tear. I tore both achilles and you never get your hops completely back. You're in my prayers, Drew. Hopefully, it's just a bump in the road and you'll be back for the playoffs or sooner. Got to run. Mamba, we need a Please be OK bandwagon for Drew.

Love you guys. Either way, we will still win it all. Go Lakers.

Tom

I found this on Achilles Strains:

Causes,
Achilles tendinosis may be caused by overuse such as running or walking longer or faster than usual or on different terrain such as hills or stairs. Other causes include weak calf muscles, misalignment of your legs, not wearing the proper footwear, side effects of certain antibiotics (i.e. Cipro, Baycip, Ciplox), cortisone injections or accidents. Misalignment includes legs that are different lengths, feet that turn in or out and a heel that is misshaped. Cortisone injections allow you to stretch your Achilles tendon without feeling any pain, causing you to strain it unknowingly.

Damn. Just when Andrew was playing as great as we've ever seen him. Get well, Andrew! In fact, put me shotgun on the GET WELL BEAST BANDWAGON.

So many of our guys are banged up right now, it's hard to identify any Laker who isn't. Somehow our walking wounded will have to take us the distance on this championship run. You can do it, guys! Go Lakers!

The injury is not a welcoming sign, it is worse than losing the T'wolves. My wish was not granted that I had hope it would be an injury free in the next 15 games.

On the other hand, Drew can recover before the playoffs time so it is also at a Laker advantage to sit him down at this time. It is up to Mbenga and Artest to fill up the void. It is about time for Artest to explode in big numbers because he is a reluctant go-to-guy. It is dangerous to mix Mbenga with 2nd unit, it has to be Odom as the leader of that group. They can be good at home and rather inconsistent on the road under an unfriendly atmosphere.

I also wish Powell to show off and be counted too in these last few games. Their objective will be to maintain the Laker advantage here in the West. They don't need to win all games.

Our bench guys have been rusty on the bench which result to lacking confidence to do well in a triangle. The same observation with the former Zag phenom, Adam Morrison. He lost that bravado and zeal of excellence as the Superstar of the team. When he gets to play ball, he's trying hard to please his teammates by passing it constantly and when he gets open, he shoots the ball nervously as if conscious with his stats. Adam is better than that as a college hoopster. He plays with emotions and carry the burden of the team. Unfortunately, he became a bad player after his first year injury, he could not please the high profiled coaches like Larry Brown then traded to demanding triangle coach, PJ. He was good in practices later disappeared in games. That happens to kids who used to be cajoled, motivated and closely guided by their school coaches. In the professional league, it is a reprimand, show everything what you got or else sit down in the dog house.

As I've said before this team has no passion to repeat with or without Drew they're going to flame in the playoffs.

Edwin - re: Morrison, I'm interested to see if he can land another NBA job next season. He was so great at Zag... maybe he just doesn't love it anymore?


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