Andrew Bynum's full potential untapped
Once the halftime buzzer sounded, Andrew Bynum frowned, untucked his jersey and stormed into the locker room.
It appeared that the Staples Center crowd would see a repeat episode of Kobe Bryant shooting horribly and Bynum not receiving enough touches.
"I was running the court and wasn't getting the ball," Bynum said.
Instead, the opposite happened by the end of the Lakers' 108-99 victory Tuesday over the Houston Rockets. Bynum posted 21 points, 22 rebounds and three blocked shots in what became his first 20-20 performance in his six-year career. Bynum's mood surely changed enough to joke he's driving his 911 Porsche afterwards, the same vehicle that earned him numerous parking tickets. Meanwhile, Lakers forward Pau Gasol and Mike Brown gushed about the possibility of Bynum replicating more 20-20 efforts, especially when his conditioning returns to full speed. But here's the unsettling reality. Bynum's potential remains untapped partly because of Bryant's resistance to defer to him.
Credit Bryant all you want for his 37 points on 15 of 29 shooting. But also keep in mind he had a stretch where he missed nine of 11 shots in the first half that easily could've gone to the Lakers' center. Even as Bynum was on the cusp of reaching the 20-20 mark, it was Matt Barnes, and not Bryant, who threw a cross-court pass he compared to the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson that earned him the milestone. Barnes surely noticed the need for Bynum to feel more empowered, particularly after being connected in deals involving Dwight Howard.
"There's a lot of talk that he needed to get traded," Barnes said of Bynum. "People take that to heart. When he's healthy, he's hands-down one of the best big men in the game. "
But who knows how the dynamic surrounding the Lakers' offense will pan out. While Pau Gasol has gladly deferred to Bynum by mostly shooting mid-jumpers, Bryant will continue to tinker on his shot no matter how many it requires. Brown also made it clear he's deferring to Bryant even if it comes at the expense of a more flourishing inside game. And of course, there's the health concerns, which prompted Bynum to concede he'll forever wear the knee brace for however long he plays. But unlike in past seasons, Bynm hasn't let such barriers limit him.
Althought he appeared frustrated at halftime, Bynum remained aggressive in establishing post position and converting off offensive putbacks. As much as Bynum always wanted to score at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in one game, he says it no longer consumes him. Same thing regarding his season-wide goal to make the NBA All-Star team. He's now internally driven and apathetic toward external situations.
It's the right mindset to have. Despite how evident his game has flourished in only three games since his return, it's apparent his talent won't go fully tapped. Even if it causes him to untuck his jersey at times in frustration, it won't cause him to stop proving why the team should think otherwise.
"It's only benefiting," Bynum said. "Consequently, we'll be able to get out, we'll be able to run, we'll get guys open shots. We have three guys that can command double-teams. Offensively, we just go down low to one of us -- or set screens for each other -- and then defenses collapse, we'll hit shots."
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