Impressed with Bynum

9 06 2010

Of all the elements from last night’s Lakers Game 3 win against the Celtics that impressed me, it was the tenacity and defense of Andrew Bynum which left the biggest impression. Obviously Derek Fisher’s 11 points in the fourth quarter, including that critical and-1 layup toward the end, were instrumental in securing a 2-1 series lead for the Lakers. But Bynum’s continued devotion to defense and rebounding is what has me most grateful as a Lakers fan.

Sometimes I take for granted that Bynum is only 22. He’s been in the League since he was 17. At times, he displays the immaturity one would expect from someone his age; all of us who are older remember how we were in our late teens and early 20s.

As Bynum continued to mature, in part by his working with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when Kareem was a special instructor for the team (basically Bynum’s personal coach), I wondered where his ceiling was as a player. More to the point, I wondered how tenacious and tough he could become. He seemed mild-mannered and without passion. I doubted whether playing with tough, gritty veterans like Fisher and Kobe Bryant would rub off on him. For a while, I was suspicious of how great a player he could become if he didn’t have that toughness factor. There’s no doubt anymore; Bynum is every bit as dedicated to the principles of a team as I once hoped he would be.

He’s welcomed his role as the post defender/rebounder in such an inopportune situation. Most NBA fans know that he’s playing with torn cartilage in his right knee. To play with that type of injury requires the toughness and focus many Lakers fans have been waiting to see from Bynum. But it’s the combination of that and his acceptance to do the one thing Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and any other Lakers big man can’t do: consistently alter shots, hit the ‘boards every play, create bigger passing windows for guards by playing above the rim and receiving alley-oop passes. Bynum has done everything the Lakers have needed for them to become champions and in back-to-back games has done more than I initially thought he could do for an entire series.

As great as Fisher fourth quarter was last night (it was something all us Lakers fans will remember), Bynum’s acceptance of his role on this team is as refreshing as the thought of a back-to-back championship.

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