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It's not the same without Bynum

February 28, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

DENVER — It started here in Denver and then swept to the cable sports TV shows.

Are the Lakers better without Andrew Bynum?

Denver Nuggets Coach George Karl brought up the question and gave his own answer -- they probably are -- when asked about it Thursday by Denver reporters.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson didn't commit either way.

"Offensively, we're more streamlined," he said. "We run probably a little bit better offensively and we can do things out there with multiple ballhandlers on the floor, particularly with Luke [Walton] and Lamar [Odom] at that wing spot. That part of our game -- fastbreaks, scoring -- has, I think, gone up."

Then he balanced out his thought process with one sweeping statement.

"Defensively, I don't think we're quite as good," he said.

Odom was more one-sided in his thoughts on the topic.

"Andrew makes us a bigger and deeper team," he said. "I would disagree with Coach Karl. Men tend to disagree sometimes."

Karl inadvertently touched off a national basketball debate with his comments Thursday.

"Don't you have to make the statement that maybe they're better without Bynum?" he asked reporters in Denver.

"Why do we always say Bynum? How many games has he played for this team? I like Bynum. I think he's a great player. But sometimes you can have too much talent out there and it can kind of be confusing."

Either way, Jackson said the Lakers were accustomed to playing without Bynum, making it all the way to the NBA Finals last season and going 12-1 without him this season until their 90-79 loss Friday to Denver.

"We're not afraid of any of the matchups that we've got when we come into this," Jackson said. "The idea is Lamar flourishes a lot from starting, and you all see that and the effects of that. If he can carry that same energy if and when Andrew does come back . . . that'll make us that much better."

Bynum is not expected back from a torn medial collateral ligament until at least March 30. He is averaging 14 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots in 29.1 minutes a game.

Mbenga momentum

Reserve center DJ Mbenga didn't hit another career high Friday against Denver after matching his personal best with eight points Thursday against Phoenix.

He was, however, the only Lakers player to make more than 46.2% of his shots against the Nuggets -- he made the only shot he took against Denver.

Before the game, Jackson said the Lakers' lack of depth at center would create chances for Mbenga.

"DJ's going to get an opportunity," Jackson said. "He's a physical player. He's going to be physical. We've got to tone his game down just enough so that he can play without putting us in jeopardy of fouls."

Mbenga finished with three points and a rebound in six minutes against Denver.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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