Andrew Bynum can do the little things while adapting to double teams
After countless video sessions and plenty of coaching feedback, Lakers center Andrew Bynum could just go to his bookshelf to find the answer on how to overcome double teams.
Coach Mike Brown gave his players the day off Thursday after the Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz on a back-to-back. But the compacted and exhausting NBA schedule may not give Bynum time to reread "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell, a book he pored over last season while rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee.
But should Bynum pull that book out, he'd see the subhead that provides a simple answer on how to approach his season-long quest to adjust to more imposing defenses. The text reads: "How little things can make a big difference."
In the case of the Lakers' 90-87 overtime victory Wednesday over the Utah Jazz, Bynum illustrated just how big that difference can be. With the Lakers leading by a point in the final seconds, Bynum stepped into the lane and swatted Al Jefferson's shot. The ball then landed in Kobe Bryant's hands and he was fouled, making two free throws with 0.7 seconds left to clinch the victory. Moments earlier, Bynum crashed the glass and tipped in one of Bryant's missed jumpers, giving the Lakers an 87-86 lead with 51 seconds remaining.
None of these plays have anything to do with Bynum's failure to play through double teams. He shot five of 13 from the field, provided only two assists and committed three turnovers. But they have everything to do with how Bynum can thrive by achieving the little things, even if his post performance continues to lag.
That said, plays such as Bynum's blocked shot or his tip-in could provide a formula for maintaining relevancy, an approach he has used in the past. Despite nursing a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee during the 2010 NBA Finals, Bynum played a limited but effective 25 minutes. He averaged 7.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, mostly by staying close to the basket, intimidating the Boston Celtics from driving into the lane and staying ready for easy putbacks.
And after last season's All-Star break, Bynum, to assuage frustration over his lack of an offensive role, took the Lakers' suggestion that he should largely own the defense. After that, his per-game average of 12.3 rebounds trailed only Dwight Howard's 14.7, and his 2.36 blocks trailed only Howard's 3.00 and JaVale McGee's 2.57.
Now, more communication on defense would help with the Lakers' ongoing process of dealing with pick-and-roll sets. Immediately crashing the glass on offense would give the team insurance as Bryant maintains his aggressive offensive attack and the perimeter players hope to rectify their poor three-point shooting.
This formula doesn't exactly mitigate Bynum's problems on double teams; he'll have to continue adjusting to that. But as Gladwell's book title suggests, the approach will make a big difference.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Andrew Bynum, center, loses the ball in front of Utah center Derrick Favors, left, and forward Enes Kanter during Wednesday's game. Credit: Jim Urquhart / Associated Press