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Lakers center Andrew Bynum continues vanishing act after Pau Gasol's return

He has regressed since the first 11 games of the season, when he averaged more than 20 points and almost 12 rebounds a game while Gasol was sidelined.

December 27, 2009|By Mike Bresnahan

Can a player be a former All-Star without ever being selected to the All-Star team?

Here's a case for Andrew Bynum: He was the top center in the Western Conference the first month of the season as he effortlessly absorbed Pau Gasol's points and rebounds while the Lakers' power forward missed 11 games.

Then Gasol returned from a hamstring injury and Bynum disappeared.

There's not a lot to criticize on a team tied with Boston for the NBA's best record (23-5), but Bynum continues to take steps back.

His numbers without Gasol: 20.3 points and 11.8 rebounds a game. His numbers since Gasol's return: 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds a game.

Bynum endured another not-so-sharp effort Friday against Cleveland, totaling four points and six rebounds in 26 minutes of the Lakers' 102-87 loss.

"I'm kind of being passive," Bynum said. "I'm playing short minutes and Pau's back, so we've got to fit in what we can."

Bynum also felt as if he was being yanked too quickly.

"Right now, it's kind of like a short leash," he said. "I just come out if I don't make a shot or if I'm not effective."

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson often criticizes Bynum, but he sided with him Friday, seeming to chide Bynum's teammates for not looking for the 22-year-old seven-footer.

"He needs more touches on the block in places that he can do some post-up moves," Jackson said.

Bynum, however, dropped an entry pass from Ron Artest early in the fourth quarter and was taken out of the game with 6:53 to play. He took a seat on the bench between DJ Mbenga and Adam Morrison, a towel wrapped around his shoulders.

Bynum's defensive assignment on Friday, Shaquille O'Neal, had 11 points and seven rebounds in only 22 minutes.

Foaming at the mouth

The foam fingers that were tossed onto the court in the fourth quarter of Friday's game were part of a Nike promotion involving Kobe Bryant.

"If you want to throw something, at least throw something that's not going to hurt," Bryant said. "So the foam fingers I guess were the best thing that could happen in the situation. But you don't want to see that happen."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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