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Readers express angst over Lakers' playing

Times sports writer Mike Bresnahan answers questions about the Lakers.

January 02, 2010

Mike Bresnahan covers the Lakers for The Times. Readers' questions about the Lakers will be answered every Friday at latimes.com/sports.

Q: What in the world is happening to our Lakers? What is so great about Odom? He is right under the basket, and he can't make it because he NEVER jumps . . . He throws it away many times. . . . Yuck!!!!!! They'll never win it this year unless they start playing basketball. . . . Where is their defense? I could go on and on . . . Makes us sick even to watch it. . . . Happy New Year!!!

--Ruth and Glen LeDoux, Brenham, Tex.

A: Man, there's been a ton of reader angst the past week or so.

I totally understand. The Lakers were awful against Phoenix and Cleveland, needed two overtimes to beat Sacramento and beat Golden State in the most boring 242-point game ever (the Lakers made their free throws in the final minutes, the Warriors didn't . . . enthralling!).

On the other hand, I was talking to an NBA scout the other day, listing the problems of the Lakers -- Andrew Bynum's decreasing production, a thin bench, Lamar Odom's disappearance -- and he cut me off.

"Are you serious?" he asked bluntly.

"Yeah," I answered, bewildered.

"Let me tell you something," he said. "Twenty-nine other teams would love to have the problems the Lakers are having. Twenty-nine!"

And you know what? He's right.

Think Kurt Rambis wishes he had Pau Gasol in Minneapolis? Think the crumbling Portland Trail Blazers wouldn't kill to have Andrew Bynum instead of Greg Oden right now? Think the solid but totally star-less Atlanta Hawks wouldn't give up Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and their next 17 first-round draft picks for Kobe Bryant?

The Lakers spoke in hushed tones of winning 72 games before the season began. That bar was set way too high, obviously, kind of like asking Shannon Brown to dunk on a 15-foot basket. It would be entertaining, and people would watch, but he's going to be a foot or two short.

But the Lakers are 25-6. They have the best record in the NBA. They didn't get their sixth loss until Jan. 6 last season, so they're within a game or two of that pace despite missing Gasol for 11 games (and three losses).

So if you start typing an e-mail to me expressing anger, fear, sadness or loneliness, just type out "Twenty-nine other teams" and send a copy to yourself.

Q: I don't know what the Lakers are going to do about their bench. There is absolutely no point production coming from the bench. If they don't get this fixed there can be no repeat.

-- Charles Moore

A: See what I mean?

Q: Andrew Bynum looks a whole lot like a Benoit Benjamin. Eighty-year-olds have more energy. What's he saving it for?

--Don P., Valley Village

A: OK, here's the hot topic of the month: what's the deal with Bynum?

If I get this question one more time, my inbox will explode. I'm only partly kidding.

Bynum was slowed by some sort of two-week cold/flu/Ebola virus, but was already showing some troubling signs before that. He hasn't had a double-double in his last 20 games after doing it in eight of his first nine games.

Jackson thinks Bynum misses Kurt Rambis, who worked with Bynum every game, showing him post moves and helping him sharpen a mid-range jumper that has totally disappeared.

I think a bigger part of the problem is the return of Pau Gasol from a hamstring injury, which absolutely led to a downturn in Bynum's stats.

After all, name two frontcourts in the last 20 years with two players who averaged double-doubles over an entire season. I'll give you all day to get back to me.

The point I'm making is that Bynum was due for a drop in stats when Gasol returned to health.

However, the drop shouldn't be this precipitous, so I think it's Bynum shrinking back either consciously or subconsciously, deferring too much to teammates. Without Gasol, Bynum had to be The Man down low. Now that Gasol's back, Bynum doesn't need to be as motivated to score or rebound because, well, there's an All-Star forward occupying space right next to him in the lane.

That's what I see happening. Whether it gets corrected is up to a certain 22-year-old.

Q: I may lose some friends over this, but as a die-hard Laker fan for almost 30 years, I must stand up to the NBA and agree with Stan Van Gundy and Phil Jackson about basketball games on Christmas Day. Not only is it obviously unfair to the players and staff but it's unfair to fans, too. Mr. Stern, you wouldn't offer an alcoholic a drink just because it's Christmas, so why tempt us with a matchup we can't resist on a day when we really want to spend time with our loved ones?

--Lanny Kaufer, Ojai

A: You may lose your friends . . . but you've gained one for life, Lanny!

Phil Jackson doesn't enjoy coaching on Christmas, the Lakers don't enjoy playing on Christmas (despite saying they absolutely love it in case the NBA Grinches are listening), and, finally, I don't enjoy working on Christmas either.

Now that I've sentenced the Lakers organization to the next six Christmases in Memphis, it's time to get outta here.

Readers can send their questions about the Lakers and the NBA to our beat reporters, but please put "Q&A" in the subject line.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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