Kwame Brown inspired more than just Andrew Bynum
Every time Andrew Bynum throws down a lob, blocks a shot or bullies a defender in the lane, just remember that none of this might have been possible without one significant former teammate.
"I taught him everything he knows," Brown recently told The Times' Mike Bresnahan. "I'm one of the better defenders in the league, and we played against each other every day in practice. I told him if you can score against me, you can score on anyone."
Now, it's tempting for Laker fans to cue the laugh track. They probably just remember all the muffed passes and dunks he provided with the Lakers for 2½ seasons before he was sent to Memphis as part of the Pau Gasol trade in February 2008. But perhaps Brown does deserve some credit. After all, he's proved instrumental for the team beyond just playing a role in Bynum's development. Consider these examples:
1. Kobe Bryant — Forget about his amazing talent and drive. Bryant averaged a career-high 35.4 points in the 2005-06 campaign because of Brown's presence. Don't let the box score fool you. Bryant's career-high 81 points Jan. 22, 2006 against Toronto may look impressive, but don't overlook the three points Brown provided on one of five shooting. Toronto simply picked its poison by opting to limit Brown in the post rather than trying to stop Bryant from dropping bucket after bucket.
Don't underestimate Brown's connection with Michael Jordan, either. Jordan remained fascinated with Brown's so-called potential and selected him No. 1 in the 2001 NBA draft. It's likely that Jordan passed down some of his basketball wisdom to Brown, who in turn shared it with Bryant. Even if Brown could never catch any of Bryant's direct passes, it certainly forced the Black Mamba to sharpen his facilitating skills.
2. Pau Gasol — Had Brown not been such a valuable trade chip to the Grizzlies, there's no way El Spaniard would have wound up in Los Angeles. So it's only fair that Gasol shares at least one of his titles with Brown. After all, it would've been inevitable that Brown would've collected a Larry O'Brien trophy had he remained with the Lakers, anyway. Gasol should also thank Brown for prompting his teammates to elevate their play after his departure. With such a void left on the Lakers' frontline, they needed to support Gasol any way they could.
3. Mitch Kupchak — His reputation as a general manager remained flimsy and at times even earned Bryant's scorn. But once Kupchak traded Brown, everything subsided. Now, Kupchak has been credited with putting together the pieces that ensured three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and back-to-back titles. To show his gratitude, Kupchak should offer Brown a front-office position.
— Mark Medina
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Photo: Andrew Bynum, right, says he and Golden State's Kwame Brown used to talk about cars and go bowling when both were members of the Lakers. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press; Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)