Andrew Bynum comes up big for Lakers
Someone forgot to tell Andrew Bynum that the coaches already submitted their ballots.
The 22-year-old center, hoping to be selected today as an All-Star reserve, put up eye-catching numbers in the Lakers’ 118-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday at Conseco Fieldhouse.
He scored a season-high 27 points and took 12 rebounds as the Lakers improved to 3-2 on their eight-game trip, this one coming against a team that’s, uh, defensively challenged, to put it kindly.
Whether Bynum’s body of work this season is good enough to be put in play Feb. 14 at Cowboys Stadium will be determined by NBA coaches, who submitted their votes for reserves earlier this week.
“Hopefully I did, but [today] we all find out,” Bynum said. “I think if I didn’t make it, I think it would be political more so than anything and that’s just something I’ll have to deal with.”
“They’ve got people who are not centers,” Bynum said, referring to Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire’s getting put on the ballot as a center instead of power forward.
Other candidates at center are the Clippers’ Chris Kaman and the Denver Nuggets’ Nene.
Bynum is averaging 15.8 points and 8.4 rebounds this season. He went 23 consecutive games without a double-double and his defense has lagged at times.
In fact, Pacers reserve center Roy Hibbert had 21 points on 10-for-18 shooting, much of it against Bynum.
On the other hand, there are fewer doubts about Bynum’s offense. He made his first eight shots against the small-ball Pacers, starting out against power forward Troy Murphy before Hibbert was handed the task.
The Lakers’ bench erupted when Bynum turned from the baseline and dunked on Hibbert with 5:56 left in the third quarter, completing a three-point play to give the Lakers a 79-70 lead.
“It’s almost an impossible feat for them to cover ‘Drew,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
Not to be overlooked were Kobe Bryant’s 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Pau Gasol’s 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Bryant was voted by fans to be an All-Star starter, but Gasol also hoped to get some good news today. He made the All-Star team last season and is averaging 17.6 points and 11 rebounds this season, though he sat out 17 games because of two different hamstring injuries.
Can both Bynum and Gasol make the Western Conference team?
“I wouldn’t even venture an opinion on that,” Jackson said. “That’s somebody else’s opinion. I would love to say yes, indeed, surely, truly. . . . “
Not that Jackson would mind if neither Bynum nor Pau Gasol were selected.
“I don’t care at all if they don’t have to go,” he said. “That’s great [if] they get to stay behind.”
That’s Jackson for you. A huge fan of anything and everything connected to the All-Star game.
The Lakers (35-11) and Pacers (16-30) split two tight games last season, prompting the Pacers’ website to ask in advance: “Another cliffhanger in store?”
In fact, the Lakers were 3-7 in regular-season games at Conseco Fieldhouse coming into Wednesday. After the first half, it was anybody’s game, the Lakers holding a skinny 59-56 lead after 24 minutes of lackadaisical defense by both teams in what actually resembled an All-Star game for that reason.
“I was very disappointed, I told them at halftime,” Jackson said. “I express it to the players nightly. Our middle is really soft. We’re giving up a lot of penetration and whenever you give up that amount of penetration you’re going to get hurt both inside, outside and usually at the foul line. It’s a combination of both our guards keeping guys in front of them and our big guys reacting to help.”
Lucky for the Lakers, they have an offense.
Bryant had 13 points and three assists in the third quarter as the Lakers outscored the Pacers, 33-22.
There wasn’t much cheering after that for the home team. In fact, the largest ovation of the game was for a handful of Super Bowl-bound Indianapolis Colts players in attendance, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Matt Stover all receiving a standing ovation.
The Lakers don’t play again until Friday in Philadelphia, allowing them to turn an eye today toward the All-Star reserves, who will be announced tonight on TNT at 4 p.m. PST.
The 30 NBA coaches chose them by voting for seven players in their conference, including two guards, two forwards a center and two other players regardless of position. Coaches could not vote for players on their own team.