What a weekend for NBA fans! In just two days we saw Kevin Durant bounce in a game-winner, reigning MVP Derrick Rose suffer a season-ending injury, Rajan Rondo chest-bump a referee (not the good kind of chest-bump), and the Los Angeles Clippers execute one of the most extreme comebacks in playoff history. Oh, and let’s not forget the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic stealing Game One from the Indiana Pacers on the road.
Not to be lost in the shuffle was the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum‘s performance in the series opener against the Denver Nuggets. Bynum dominated the paint while putting together the first Lakers playoff triple-double since legendary point guard
Smush Parker Magic Johnson did it in 1991. Of course, the most impressive part of Bynum’s triple-dip was that he set a Lakers franchise record and tied an NBA record with 10 blocked shots.
Those of us who follow the Lakers have always wondered why Bynum isn’t the defensive monster that Howard is in Orlando. While he’s not as athletic as Howard, Bynum has much greater size and length which should allow him to be just as effective a shot-blocker. But Bynum often pulls a disappearing act on the defensive end, particularly when he has it going offensively.
For a while, this was a mystery to Lakers fans. I mean, doesn’t Bynum get it? Doesn’t he understand that he can affect the game just as much on defense as he does on offense? Well apparently he didn’t—not until after the game yesterday, according to his post-game comments on ABC:
Wow. So we can deduce that before yesterday’s game, Andrew Bynum never understood that he could help his team win not just by scoring, but also by playing defense?
Never, in all the years of scrutiny from coaches, fellow players, and the media did he actually grasp the concept of what they were trying to get through to him?
And I love how he acts like he discovered this on his own. “Hey…note to self (wink, wink), I’m not sure if you know this…keep it a secret, Lisa Salters…but defense can help you win games!”
*There’s also something disconcerting about a player “chasing” a record once he finds out he’s close. I’m sure it happens all the time, but Bynum shouldn’t have to abandon defensive principles and go flying all over the court to try to get his blocks at the end of the game. It should come within the flow of the game. There’s something very Nykesha Sales about the whole thing.
It’s not that I expect Bynum to block 10 shots per game. I’m not even sure if he could do much better than his average of 1.9. What blows my mind is that it took a game like this, where Bynum abandoned his offensive concerns to control the defensive paint against an undersized team, for him to realize that defense really does win games.
I guess it’s like having a 5-year-old at home. You can keep warning him and telling him not to touch the stove, but until he touches it and burns his hand, he’ll never truly understand.
Well Bynum probably burned his hand pretty badly last night with all those blocks, so hopefully he’ll get after it defensively for the rest of the playoffs. Knowing his history, however, I’d say that’s a long shot.