Kareem Abdul-Jabbar smiles when he hears the question.
How many times has he been asked what's wrong with Andrew Bynum?
"At least once," Abdul-Jabbar deadpanned.
Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers' special assistant in charge of mentoring Bynum, has seen his protege struggle since the playoffs began, averaging 4.3 points and 2.9 rebounds coming into Tuesday's game against Houston. Bynum's regular-season averages were 14.3 points and eight rebounds a game.
Bynum seemed to lose more confidence with every game, bottoming out with a scoreless effort Sunday against the Rockets and failing to look at the basket whenever he received a pass in the post.
"Playoff basketball is something he hasn't experienced and that certainly has its effect," he said. "Teams are targeting him now. He's getting the kind of attention probably that he's wanted to get all along, but he's got to adjust to it. I think it's all about him adjusting to the intensity and the ferocity of the playoffs. It's another step up."
Bynum stepped up almost immediately after starting Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals in place of Lamar Odom, who played sparingly because of a bruised lower back.
Instead of picking up quick fouls, as had been Bynum's recent tendency, he picked up quick points, scoring on an alley-oop dunk, an eight-foot bank shot and a dunk off Derek Fisher's miss, all within the first 3:07 of the game.
For a few minutes, it looked as if the same Bynum who was on a roll until a knee injury in late January cost him 32 games. He finished with 14 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. He had never scored that many points in a playoff game.
Maybe he was finally shaking off the "rust and mildew" that Abdul-Jabbar said was hindering the 21-year-old.
"He's found himself behind everybody, playing catch-up," Abdul-Jabbar said. "He's not exactly up to speed with where the team's at in terms of group consciousness. There's a lot to it."
A day before Game 5, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson didn't envision starting Bynum, though his tenor changed at the Tuesday morning shoot-around, where he acknowledged tinkering with a bigger lineup in case Odom couldn't play.
Jackson went with Bynum as a starter. It turned out to be the right call.
The Lakers were fined $10,000 by the NBA because Kobe Bryant wore headphones around his neck during his postgame news conference Sunday after Game 4 in Houston.
Players are not allowed to wear headphones, according to the league's policy on proper attire in interview settings. Teams, not players, are fined in such situations.