Reporting from Dallas — It's an easy-to-spot trend for Andrew Bynum, 22 years old and still learning on the job.
The more the Lakers center touches the ball, the more his confidence swells and, typically, the better his stats become.
A day after grudgingly losing a tight battle against San Antonio veteran Tim Duncan, Bynum took apart Dallas centers Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden.
Bynum made eight of 11 shots, and was fouled on a handful of other shots that led to seven free-throw attempts Wednesday against the Mavericks. He scored 22 points in the 100-95 victory over Dallas after scoring 23 against San Antonio.
"I'm getting the ball a lot and often in a working position," Bynum said. "Touches and time, there's nothing that can replace that."
Bynum went 23 games without a double-double, but in the six games Pau Gasol has been out because of a strained left hamstring, Bynum is averaging 19 points and 11.8 rebounds.
"There's a real focus on him and when 'Drew gets that focus, he gets a lot of touches," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "And when you get a lot of touches you have an opportunity to do some things."
The injuries mount for Kobe Bryant -- finger, back, elbow -- but the Lakers, and Bryant, don't think he should take time off and heal.
It would take at least four weeks for his finger to feel better, and even that's no guarantee. Not to mention that the Lakers are privately looking at the developing race for home-court advantage between them and the beasts of the Eastern Conference, Boston and Cleveland.
Bryant, time off? Not likely.
"I don't see why unless he's hurting the team out there and there would be a long-term situation in which if he played now, it could affect him for five to 10 games later on," Jackson said. "The team would have to suffer with him on the floor. We're not at that point yet."
Bryant was asked in jest if he would play Friday against the Clippers.
"That's insulting," he said, partly smiling.
He's back . . . almost
Gasol will practice today and is expected to return Friday against the Clippers.
"Everything's feeling good," Gasol said. "I'm excited."
So are the Lakers.
"He worked out really well [Wednesday]," Jackson said. "He wants to go through a full practice with body contact before he comes on the floor. We hope to have a limited practice [today] at some point."
Jackson has a way to tell if Gasol is game-ready.
"I'll throw DJ [Mbenga] at him and let DJ pound at him a little bit and see how he works out with that," Jackson said. "He needs that."