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Andrew Bynum to have increased role

December 17, 2011 |  5:15 pm

The ball popped loose on the court, and the natural instinct for any basketball player involves running after it and even diving for it.

But this proved to be under different circumstances. This happened in a meaningless intersquad scrimmage at USC's Galen Center Friday between the Lakers starters and reserves. More importantly, it involved Lakers center Andrew Bynum. But neither Bynum nor Pau Gasol appeared slightly worried or aware that one wrong move could put Bynum fully healthy right knee in another state of repair. In fact, Bynum laughed about the incident afterwards

"That was funny," Bynum said after Saturday's practice at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo. "I wish I could've gotten the steal. I wanted to take it for a dunk. But it bounced off his knee so I had to dive for it."

"I tried to avoid his legs," Gasol said. "I went for the ball. I wans't thinking too much about it. But he has that big brace that's well protected."

The 6,568 Laker fans at Galen Center nearly gasped, a natural inclination regarding Bynum's extensive history. But it's just one example on how Bynum won't let that inhibit his play nor damper his expectations for a larger role this season.

Lakers Coach Mike Brown says he feels the same way, joking he considered jumping over the scorer's table in excitement over the hustle play before realizing he might pull his hamstrings. As far as Bynum's role goes, Brown says he's heard not even a trace of a negative diagnosis from the Lakers' training staff regarding his knee that he's planning to play him 34 minutes per game this season.

"He's a guy that can take on a little more responsibility," Brown said of Bynum, and that includes pairing him up with the reserves as well.

Part of it's necessity. The Lakers traded Lamar Odom and a second-round pick to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round pick and a $8.9 trade exception. They didn't re-sign free agents Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff. Second-year forward Derrick Caracter will miss at least 4 to 6 weeks after having surgery on his left knee. Although the Lakers remain impressed with Josh McRoberts' work ethic, Brown plans to play him 15-20 minutes per game.

The rest of it points to Bynum's growth as a player. He may serve a five-game suspension for throwing a forearm at Dallas guard J.J. Barea in the 2011 playoffs. His name may continuously attach to trade talks surrounding Dwight Howard. But his training camp conditioning, added mobility and increased post moves have impressed one needed ally.

"He seems extremely motivated," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "With how last season ended and also the some of the [trade] talk has lit a fire under him."

And oh, yeah, there's his health.

Bynum's knee brace, constant treatment before and after games and limited movement around the basket on defense helps minimize those chances. Some fans understandably would've wanted him not to dive for that loose ball, but Bynum insists that;s one example where he won't allow such possibilities inhibit his aggressiveness. It's also not derailing his optimism for a larger role.

"I need to prove I'm reliable as far as my knees go,. I'll do all that I can to stay healthy. I'm looking forward ot it a bit because I will get more minutes now. Hopefully I can do productive things with those.".


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--Mark Medina

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