Two days after his 18-rebound, four-blocked-shot performance against Orlando’s Dwight Howard, considered by many the best center in the NBA, the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum was still all the rage.
He has been a towering presence since the All-Star break, a force that has helped the Lakers produce the best record in the NBA at 10-1 since Feb. 22.
Bynum has dominated the backboards and been an intimidator on defense with his 7-foot, 285-pound frame.
“That’s where he can really impact the game a lot on this team,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “Obviously, some nights he’s got to score if he’s got the hand. But every night he can change it with rebounding and defense.”
Bynum sat out the first 24 games of the season recovering from right knee surgery, making his progress a little slow.
He has played in 43 games this season; in the last 11; he has been stellar.
Since the All-Star break, Bynum has averaged 11.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 30.5 minutes and shot 62% from the field.
“‘He’s consistently performing this way,” Kobe Bryant said after Monday night’s game. “We expect this from him. This is how he should play and this is how he’s going to play.”
Bryant was impressed with how Bynum stood up against Howard, saying it was a “statement” that Bynum “can do this against a Dwight Howard.”
Bynum blocked two of Howard’s shots.
And Bynum’s 18 rebounds tied his career high. He also had nine offensive rebounds against Howard, the second-leading rebounder in the NBA with about 14 a game.
“He’s motivated,” Bryant said. “He doesn’t want his man to score. When Pau [Gasol] is in the game and Dwight scores on him, he’s upset. So he’s kind of got that motor going for him. It’s been in him. He’s always kind of had that edge to him.
“Everybody finds challenges. For me, it’s always scoring. For him, it’s rebounding. For Ron [Artest], it’s shutting people down. Everybody has that thing that they do that helps us win ballgames and it gets us excited. For him, it’s rebounding and blocking shots.”
The Lakers will have had three days off from Monday to Friday night’s game at Staples Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves for Bryant to rest his sprained left ankle.
Bryant played almost 31 minutes Monday night on an ankle he injured Saturday night against the Dallas Mavericks.
Jackson said Bryant is still trying to get as healthy as possible.
“It’s still an ankle that was badly sprained,” Jackson said after practice Wednesday. “He’s got to be doing therapy a lot. Today he stayed off it. Tomorrow he may come out on the court. I asked him if he can shoot tomorrow to get some shots in.”
After playing five games in nine days, the Lakers have some downtime before the game against Minnesota.
There was no practice Tuesday, but the Lakers went back to work Wednesday and will be back at it again Thursday.
“Today we had a hard practice, obviously, after a day off,” Gasol said. “Phil wanted to make sure we’re focused and we don’t get too comfortable. So he took us through a good practice today.… But it’s always good I think for a veteran team to have little breaks.”