Although there's not much difference between this season's start for the Lakers, compared to a year ago, Coach Phil Jackson's current team has been turning heads around the league because of the play of center Andrew Bynum.
Bynum, who has 10 double-doubles this season, matched a career high with 20 points in the Lakers' 10-point victory over Golden State on Sunday.
But it has been Bynum's improved all-around game that has led to more minutes and trust from Jackson.
"Phil Jackson challenged me to play defense tonight and he left me out there when Al Harrington was out there," said Bynum, who also grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked five shots in 28 minutes against the Warriors. "I was able to get some stops."
For Bynum, 20, the more he's able to show Jackson that he can play against a variety of lineups is a plus with the increased number of NBA teams showing quick lineups like Golden State.
"Over the years that I have coached against [Golden State Coach Don] Nelson," Jackson said, "there is always the mismatch that he tries to create. . . . You always have the idea that he wants to go smaller and smaller in order to get you to match up with his smaller players. . . . I have tried to resist that over the years."
The Lakers, who have won three games in a row, were 14-6 after 20 games last season and they are 12-8 this season.
But last season, the Lakers were nearly totally dependent on the play of Kobe Bryant. That's not exactly true now as the first half of Sunday's game against the Warriors proved.
With Baron Davis playing effective defense on Bryant, the Lakers' star missed 10 of 13 shots and had eight points at intermission.
Yet, the Lakers led, 60-59, heading into the third quarter. The reason? Unselfish play and balanced scoring.
While Bryant struggled with his shot, his teammates didn't. Seven Lakers had at least five points by halftime as they made 20 of 31 field goals off 12 assists. When Bryant got his offense going in the second half, it was game over for Golden State.
"They're a big team, and we just got outhustled," Davis said. "I think the reason why we lose to them is because we let the bench, the other guys get eight, 10 and 12 points. We let Bynum go for 20 and 11. Somebody for them is always having a career game."
The Lakers, who have won nine in a row over Golden State, will meet the Warriors again Friday in Oakland.
When the Lakers play host to San Antonio at Staples Center on Thursday, Jackson will have company when it comes to his dislike of coaches wearing microphones for nationally televised games.
San Antonio's Gregg Popovich recently told reporters: "I'm willing to bet it would give pause to Commissioner [David] Stern and his group if all of a sudden in their next important meeting there was a camera and microphone [in the room]," Popovich said.
"It would make them, as it will make us, act differently. It will be a much more cautious, untrusting atmosphere."
Thursday's game will be televised by TNT.