Lakers center Andrew Bynum is looking like a keeper

From Boston

It’s been several days since I have had the chance to remind everyone how clueless Plaschke can be, and since this was a wasted game, I certainly don’t want to waste such an opportunity.

Plaschke continues to make the case that the Lakers have to unload Andrew Bynum, insisting they replace him with free agent Chris Bosh. And by Sunday, I believe.

“I stand by it, stand by it, stand by it,” Plaschke said — so used to no one listening to him on “Around the Horn” that he must constantly repeat himself.

Plaschke maintains that the Lakers will never be able to depend on Bynum’s body, and while he’s presently got that right, it doesn’t speak to what we’ve learned about the young man.

The kid has been determined, tough and tough-minded as he has pushed himself, obviously the kind of competitor a team needs to win a championship.

And playing on one knee, he’s been a force, the kind of player that separates one team from another. Most importantly, he’s just a kid with the potential to dominate.

Given the payoff, it’s worth the gamble. Without Bynum in Game 4, the Lakers were just another scrambling NBA team unable to withstand home-court pressure and aggressive drives to the basket.

“I’m just happy with what he’s given us; I think it’s a gift,” said Coach Phil Jackson, who got just a little more than a dozen moments from Bynum on Tuesday, including only one minute and 50 seconds in the second half.

We’re already getting a glimpse of what NBA life would be like without Bynum. He said his knee swelled after Game 3 and had not recovered sufficiently to allow him to compete at a high level in Game 4.

“I knew that 30 seconds in,” said Bynum, who took two shots and had three rebounds. “At one point I tried to jump and it just didn’t happen.”

He remained in the locker room at the start of the third quarter while the Lakers’ medical staff worked on him. He gave it a try but looked more like a statue cemented to the court.

Without Bynum in the middle, Boston’s Glen “Big Baby” Davis has suddenly become key player in the Finals. With Bynum on the court, Davis disappears.

“One of the options is to drain it again,” Bynum said of his knee, although that doesn’t appear to be his preferred choice.

“Whatever I do, I just have to get back out there and help the team,” he said. “I think I can help make a difference.”

I know he can.

It’s Plaschke who needs to be convinced.

WE’VE BEEN waiting a long time for this, and it’s about time the NCAA got to the bottom of tennis problems at USC.

AS FOR football, I can’t imagine why any USC honk would be upset with the NCAA’s report and the penalties handed down.

It was worth it, wasn’t it — an entire nation focused on the Trojans’ march to glory and the domination it enjoyed.

Much like what performance-enhancing drugs, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did for baseball, the same can be said for USC.

In both cases, the surge in excitement worked wonders, baseball rebounding from a strike and USC attendance swelling from 50,000 a game to 90,000.

Come on, we love our cheaters — until they are caught.

Anyone in the Trojan family who casts a critical eye toward Pete Carroll, Mike Garrett or Steven Sample is now a hypocrite, the Trojan faithful torn between being apathetic and going apoplectic any time someone suggested something just wasn’t right within the program.

It was the arrogance that comes with such success that empowered Sample and Garrett to go into hiding, answering to no one, consistently refusing comment when questioned about athletics, Garrett literally running when approached.

“You still got good wheels,” I liked to yell whenever Garrett would take off sprinting.

OTHER THAN the public slap, what’s a two-year hiatus from bowl games in comparison to the notoriety, riches and recruiting bonanza enjoyed by USC the past decade.

The NCAA may vacate some wins, but there’s no pulling back the fun fans at their tailgate gatherings or the joy of crushing the opposition Saturday after Saturday.

I believe the NCAA has done USC and its anything-but-a-BCS-championship-game-is-a-disappointment fans a favor. Now there’s no chance of USC going to El Paso the next two years for the Sun Bowl.

As for lost scholarships, after only one meeting with USC bully recruiter Ed Orgeron — I don’t think anything will stop him from doing whatever he can to make sure things remain just the same at USC. Interpret that how you like.

WHILE SOME might think UCLA is the big winner in all this, it’s Lane Kiffin, who gets two years of practice and exhibition games before he really has to follow in Carroll’s footsteps.

He just has to beat UCLA, and that doesn’t seem too difficult.

JUST LOVED Bill Shaikin’s front-page story in The Times Thursday morning on the Russian psychic, clairvoyant or whatever hired by the McCourts to improve their team’s chances for success.

I’m just not sure hiring a guy with the last name “Shpunt” emboldens much confidence.

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