Lakers still need to be cautious about Andrew Bynum
Andrew Bynum hardly wants to think this way.
The Lakers center reads plenty of books stressing the importance of having a positive attitude. He's just come off his most productive season in his six-year career. In an off-season filled with many overseas trips, book-reading sessions and boxing exercises, Bynum surely enters the 2011-12 season reenergized.
More important, he finally enters that campaign with confidence about his health. He may have to miss the first five games of the 2011-12 season beginning Christmas Day. But that has nothing to do with injuries and has everything to do with Bynum clothes-lining Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea in Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals.
But the Lakers and Bynum shouldn't feel so optimistic. Through six seasons, the 7-footer Bynum has dealt with numerous injuries, and the Lakers need to exercise caution.
First off, Lakers Coach Mike Brown needs to be careful how he puts Bynum into games. It's critical Bynum's defensive role involves him remaining close to the basket so it minimizes his movement. With the Lakers guaranteed to play on three consecutive nights at least once in the compressed 66-game schedule, Brown also needs to keep Bynum's minutes consistent with what he's had the last few seasons, which is in the high 20s. Let's not forget that knee brace also will play a factor in needing to minimizing collisions.
The Lakers also should act more willing in acquiring more frontline help so they are better equipped for absorbing another Bynum injury. Last season, the Lakers didn't sign a backup center while Bynum missed the first 24 games rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee. That resulted in Pau Gasol's becoming fatigued, Theo Ratliff's needing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and Derrick Caracter's appearing unprepared for an elevated role.
This surely doesn't mean Bynum isn't capable of successfully playing through next season injury free. But that won't happen unless both Bynum and the Lakers take practical steps in minimizing his vulnerability.
-- Mark Medina
E-mail the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum tries to power his way to a shot against Dallas center Tyson Chandler in a playoff game in May. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times