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2007, January 15: ESPN.com Daily Dime – While Bynum Heals, Lakers Aim To Fill The Gaps

June 24, 2008

January 15, 2008 — The first game the Los Angeles Lakers played after
losing center Andrew Bynum for two months might be seen as a coming
attraction for the Staples Center until the middle of March arrives.

Kobe Bryant will probably be doing more in the weeks ahead. Without
Bynum down low, Kobe’s going to have to take tougher shots and work
harder on both ends for the Lakers’ successful season to stay on track.

Bryant took 44 shots and scored a season-high 48 points in their
123-121 overtime win Monday night on the road against the Seattle
SuperSonics. It was the Lakers’ seventh win in a row.

It has to affect you when you lose your 20-year-old phenom who’s
leading the league in field-goal percentage, having shown great promise
under the coaching of a Hall of Fame center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

While Bynum’s out rehabilitating his left knee, the spotlight shines brighter on backup centers Kwame Brown and Ronny Turiaf.

This is a good opportunity for Brown, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds
against the Sonics. He missed most of the season with a knee injury,
having returned on Dec. 28. The fans have been getting on him, and my
boy Stephen A. Smith has been getting on him. He hasn’t played
confident basketball.

He’s had better times. He was productive in the last couple of games of
the Phoenix playoff series last season, which I got to see up close
from my spot on the Suns bench.

He’s in a contract year. The best thing that can happen is he holds
down the fort, and when Bynum comes back, you have two big centers you
can send out there.

Turiaf, who fouled out with 14 points and two rebounds against Seattle,
has big shoes to fill anytime he goes out there and competes with
7-footers. I’ve always liked his love of the game.

Anybody else out there who could help? Chris Webber is one player the
Lakers could consider bringing in. You always think bringing in Webber
would be a good move, but when you have a winning situation already,
you have to keep all the factors in mind. Right now, it looks like my
old Michigan teammate has an opportunity to sit back and see what
happens across the league, and pick the situation that’s just right for
him.

Some might suggest that this two-month break is good for a young player
like Bynum, saving him from the wear and tear of the 82-game season.

I disagree. When you’re 20, you can play at 6 in the morning, 7 at
night, any time. You can dunk at the shootaround, at the game, any
time. When you get older, you appreciate what you could do as a young
man. Fortunately for Bynum, this isn’t one of those knee injuries that
knocks him out for a full season. I don’t see anything getting in the
way of him getting back in form for the playoffs.

While Bynum is out, I think the Lakers will find a way to play .500.
Look for Kobe to find a way to stay afloat, just as the Lakers did
against the Sonics.

And when the playoffs roll around, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them
in the top five in the West seedings. One of the effects of losing
Bynum could be hurting their chance at homecourt advantage by getting
one of the top four playoffs seeds. Even if they don’t get the
homecourt advantage, this could end up being a team that nobody wants
to play, having Kobe and Phil Jackson on the bench. And a promising
center in the middle.

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose is a regular Daily Dime contributor. For more about Jalen, visit his Web site: JalenRose.com.

By Jalen Rose – ESPN.com