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Written, directed and starring Andrew Bynum

October 26, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Bresnahan is a Times staff writer.

It was early January all over again, with a healthy Andrew Bynum dominating the middle and the Lakers winning with ease.

Bynum's outburst Friday night against Oklahoma City was the closest thing yet to the kid whose game came to be cherished by Lakers fans, not to mention Kobe Bryant, more than nine months ago.

In the Lakers' eighth and final exhibition game, Bynum had 23 points in 29 minutes, a 10-for-15 shooting effort topped off with eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

His timing on alley-oop dunks was back, his defensive instincts continued to improve and he demonstrated a nice touch on a fadeaway from the post with two seconds left in the third quarter.

His first-half activity was almost enough to boot from the headlines Bryant's return from a hyper-extended right knee in the Lakers' 105-94 victory.

Bynum blocked Kevin Durant's shot. He stole the ball from point guard Earl Watson. He turned a touch pass from Pau Gasol into a three-point play by making a hook shot while being fouled.

He scored on an alley-oop dunk off Derek Fisher's pass. Then came another alley-oop dunk off a Fisher pass. Later, another dunk off a feed from Vladimir Radmanovic.

"That's his game," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "With his timing coming back, he knows the pass is going to be there, that he can roll out and get the lobs and easy baskets that are really important to this offensive unit. Those things are nice to see."

Bynum, who turns 21 on Monday, thought so too.

"Teammates are used to throwing me the ball now again," he said, smiling.

Recently, Bynum's contract talks had been garnering more attention than his play.

The Lakers and Bynum's agent have until Friday to agree on an extension of up to five years and about $85 million. If the sides don't come to terms, Bynum becomes a restricted free agent next July, though the Lakers have the right to match if he signs an offer sheet with another team.

Bynum's agent, David Lee, remains in discussions with the Lakers, though an agreement hadn't been reached as of Saturday.

Bynum is making $2.8 million this season.

Second to none?

Emerging from the muck and mess of an unexpected war of words might be the league's best second unit.

Lamar Odom has become a happy customer on the Lakers' second string after exchanging barbs with Jackson earlier this month, adding his fill-the-stat-sheet skills to a unit already bolstered by the robust preseason play of Jordan Farmar and the ever-improving Trevor Ariza.

It could become the league's top second unit if Sasha Vujacic matches last season's 43.7% efficiency from three-point range.

"They've got to get a lot done on short order, and they have been," Jackson said. "They've been doing a real good job."

At the very least, they might make Lakers fans forget Ronny Turiaf, the towel-waving symbol of a dependable second string that received Jackson's praise throughout last season.

Farmar might be the Lakers' best player in the preseason, averaging a team-best 12.3 points in 21.1 minutes a game.

Ariza averaged 10.3 points in 23.5 minutes, and was a strong finisher around the basket in both fastbreaks and half-court sets.

Jackson tends to keep Bynum or Gasol with the second unit to ensure a post presence, so it's not quite a fresh five in place of the starters.

Still, Jackson was pleased with what he saw from the reserves . . . for now.

"In exhibition season, they've been showing that they're very effective against other bench situations," he said. "But the coaches that are going to be coaching against us the next couple weeks will probably be trying to win games."


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