As we wait for the tonight's All-Star Game, we're reminded that only one of our spectacular big men will get to play alongside All-Star fixture, Kobe Bryant. In recent years, it's been Pau Gasol who got to wear the red and gold of the West. In a reversal, not only is it Andrew Bynum who earned the trip to Orlando instead (hmmm?)...he gets to start as well. Congrats to him. The Lakers haven't had two All-Stars starting since Shaq was in our good graces. Just a sign of where the fans' attention lies. Kobe Bryant and his Lakers still matter very much (as well as the Heat, and....Clips?) Enough that Bynum finally got his chance to be in spotlight in his first trial as an NBA superstar.
As far as Bynum's superstar status is concerned, the jury is still out. He hasn't quite shown that he's ready to carry a team in the mold of a Kobe, LeBron, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, or Derrick Rose. Far too often, he's been lost in the moment, or not able to overcome off-nights to make up the difference when teammates aren't up to par. That's not to take anything anyway from his game, nor his All-Star nod. The kid's an enormous talent, but the bulk of his success with these Lakers seems to rely on his ability to affect the game through defense and rebounding while managing his offense through hustle, opportunity, or huge advantages. It appears the Lakers are just better when Pau is the secondary option on offense, and Andrew third. Andrew just gets better looks when Pau takes attention away from him. Instead of a stuck offense, waiting on Andrew to hold the ball and wait for bothersome doubles, but not be able to pass it. Pau? He's far more effective when he's being aggressive. Even when he's off, when he can demand the attention from defenses he deserves, it opens up Bynum's opportunities because Pau is quicker to react.
This past week, we saw both have pretty good games due to both excelling at playing to their strengths. In spite of the trade rumors and "help" of Kobe, Pau remains quite the professional. I'm not buying the drama supposedly hanging over his head as reasons for any issues Pau might seem to have. If there's any excuse it should be tired legs from a hectic season. it could explain the less than Pau-like shooting numbers he had this month, when every other aspect of his game seemed perfectly fine. If this is what Pau plays like when he's a wreck, then it's no wonder why Kobe....ummm, "spoke up" for his bud.
In four games, Pau put up:
19.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals per game in 37.75 minutes per game. He shot 54.4%, going 31-of-57 from the field.
15.8 points, 13.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals per game in 34.25 minutes per game. He shot 52.3%, going 23-of-44 from the field.
Both players put up numbers we should never complain about, and got them in a manner consistent with team needs. The Lakers went 2-2 this week, but I'd like to point out that both losses could be classified as schedule losses, and no matter what happens with Pau or Andrew in the next two weeks, we should all feel positive since this team making strides in the right direction. Their play is a reason why.
Hey Drew? Please dunk the ball instead of giving us your front-rim special. It's the All-Star Game. Catch alleys and stuff. Don't bore us with boring, traditional backing down. Or rebound for Kobe. You know he's shooting for MVP. And in case you didn't already know, the whole NBA loving world will be watching you against Dwight. Let's see your star kid.
*Receiving consideration: Steve Blake
It seems that Blake is the key to this Lakers team. While far from its best player, the Lakers are much better when Steve Blake is playing well. He keeps the bench in perspective, and when the bench is playing well, it balances out rotations, thus improving the starters. If he can continue to shoot consistently, the offense will improve dramatically with an actual threat on the floor. Just goes to show you what an effective point guard can do for this team. If Steve keeps this up, a POTW is on the horizon.
Let's take a vote. Who is your Lakers Player of the Week?