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LAKERS FYI

Despite Lakers' record, Tex Winter is concerned

The Lakers consultant says they haven't played as well as their NBA-best record would indicate -- and they then prove his point by getting blown out in Portland.

March 10, 2009|Broderick Turner

PORTLAND, ORE. — Tex Winter paused to gather his thoughts before offering his analysis of how the Lakers are playing.

Winter, the Lakers' basketball consultant, had come to watch them play the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, to see for himself in what direction they were headed.

The Lakers came in with the best record in the NBA, 50-12, but Winter still saw troubling signs. And that was before the Trail Blazers routed them, 111-94.

"I feel like our record is a whole lot better than how we've played," Winter, who lives in Portland with his wife, Nancy, said before the game. "I don't think we're playing nearly as good as our record indicates."

The Lakers won their first seven games and 14 of their first 15. They have yet to lose more than two consecutive games.

But they are in the midst of playing 10 of 13 games on the road, including at Houston on Wednesday and San Antonio on Thursday.

In Winter's eyes, the first three months of the season, which had the Lakers playing 29 of their first 46 games at Staples Center, has the potential to hurt the team because the schedule is so back-loaded with road games.

"I'm amazed at the record we've got," Winter said. "I see a lot of warts on this team. I think we got off to a good start. I think our schedule is going to get tougher."

Missing Bynum

Unlike Denver Coach George Karl, who recently suggested the Lakers might be better without injured Andrew Bynum, Portland Coach Nate McMillan said he believes the Lakers improve their chances of winning the NBA championship if the 7-foot, 285-pound center is able to play.

Bynum has been out since suffering a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Jan. 31, and McMillan said the Lakers simply can't replace his size.

"With him, I think they've certainly got a shot at winning it all," McMillan said. "Without him, because you lose that physical presence, I think they are still capable. But I think they are certainly better with him."

When the Lakers lost in the NBA Finals last year to Boston, Bynum didn't play because of a left knee injury that required surgery.

McMillan, who's without his own 7-foot center, Greg Oden (left knee), knows the value of having a center like Bynum.

"You're talking about a 7-footer that is a legit center," McMillan said. "It's another weapon, another option. The physical presence is what he brings to that team."

Bynum update, sort of

The original timetable for Bynum's projected return was between late March and late April, but it now appears the "late March" part of it won't be happening.

"For us, we're just allowing this part of his body to heal and come back at an appropriate time," said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who has grown tired of fielding so many questions about Bynum.

"I think I said last week, 'Don't ask me again until April,' so the next time you ask me, I'm going to say, 'I'm not going to talk about it until April,' OK? There's nothing going to go on here until April, and then we'll know something and what's going on there."

When Bynum returns, will he come off the bench or, less likely, jump back into the starting lineup?

"We'll talk about that in April," Jackson said.

Times staff writer Mike Bresnahan contributed to this report.

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broderick.turner@latimes.com

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