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Andrew Bynum will be there for one more game, Lakers: Merry Christmas

December 24, 2011 | 10:52 am

Andrew Bynum has had his five-game suspension reduced to four. What more could the Lakers wish for at the holidays? Well, plenty.

They failed to acquire Chris Paul. They had planned to trade Lamar Odom -- but not to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round pick and an $8.9-million trade exemption. And now Kobe Bryant has torn a ligament in his right wrist.

Still, Bynum’s reduced suspension is a bit of good news entering a 2011-12 season filled with uncertainty. Bynum appearing in one extra game will help significantly.

Just look at the difference between the first and second preseason games against the Clippers to see why.

In the first game, the Lakers’ offense appeared completely lost on running pick-and-roll sets and cutting to the right side of the floor. They still had issues in the second game, but the Lakers overcame the aforementioned problems enough for Bynum to increase his points (from 15 to 26) and his shooting percentage (from five of 11 to 11 of 15).

Now Bynum will appear in back-to-back games, starting New Year’s Even against the Nuggets, then flying over to Denver for a New Year’s Day matchup. He has said he still needs work on his conditioning, and this should help.

Bynum’s extra game also will decrease the burden on Pau Gasol. To understand why, just look at Gasol’s start last season.

Gasol played the center spot for the first 24 games while Bynum recovered from offseason surgery. He eventually hit a wall. He continued to have apparent problems with fatigue throughout the season. Now Gasol faces four games in five nights and three games on consecutive nights to open the season. By the end of next week, after matching up with Joakim Noah, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyson Chandler and Nene, Gasol is going to need some rest.

Then there’s Josh McRoberts. He’s more suited as a reserve than as a starter. He's shown promise in creating hustle points and at becoming a solid rotation player. But a Gasol-McRoberts frontline duo hardly matches the Bynum-Gasol presence in the lane.

Bynum’s extra game also is a boon for Bryant, given the wrist injury.

Bryant will try to push through it. But the Lakers' success can't just hinge on him. Having Bynum in the lineup earlier will help the Lakers while Bryant is at less than 100%.


Andrew Bynum not surprised about reduced suspension

Andrew Bynum's suspension reduced to four games

Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum have larger responsibilities

--Mark Medina

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