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Lakers' Andrew Bynum just might make the rest of the NBA quit

When the young center plays defense as he did Sunday in a rout of San Antonio, the Lakers are almost unbeatable.

March 07, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Lakers big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum force a driving Manu Ginobili of the Spurs to pass during the first half Sunday.
Lakers big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum force a driving Manu Ginobili of… (Bahram Mark Sobhani / Associated…)

Folks awoke here Sunday morning to shocking news.

The front-page headline in the San Antonio Express-News read, "Alamo Falls at Dawn!''

Forget the fact news travels slowly here in backwater country, as the day would only get worse for the locals. Their favorite sons, the San Antonio Spurs, would get wiped out by the Lakers playing at their season best.

In a town noted for having no quit, Andrew Bynum added yet more embarrassing commentary on San Antonio's collapse.

He said the Spurs' "starters definitely quit.''

They were certainly no match for the Lakers' size. Bynum and those in attendance (Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Magic Johnson and George Lopez) were probably too much for these quitters.

The Spurs' starters combined to score 29 points, and although Bynum scored only four — a dunk to start the first half and another to start the second half — he took only two shots.

It was his energy, his 17 rebounds for a second consecutive game and three blocked shots that seemed to take the zip right out of the Spurs, who had won 22 straight at home.

The Spurs could counter only with Tim Duncan — who appears ready to make the transition to church league basketball — and a short, fat guy in DeJuan Blair, whose head stands as tall as Bynum's belly button.

As Duncan put it later, "I think [Bynum] was a key to the game, his offensive rebounds, a bunch of second shots, and defensively he bothered a lot of people in the lane. Just his size was definitely the difference."

And some people suggested trading Bynum.

"Why would anyone want to trade Bynum?" said Lamar Odom. I can only surmise anyone who would make such an argument must not be a Lakers fan.

Those who love the Lakers know Bynum sets the team apart from every other wannabe champion.

Bynum, coupled with Pau Gasol, who has the ability to step outside and shoot almost like a guard, gives the Lakers an inside presence most teams can only covet.

All Bynum has to do now is remain healthy. He said he's still not 100%, but if so, then the Spurs have to be freaking out at the thought he might be when they meet again.

He said his knee continues to hurt, including during Sunday's game. He said it was hit, the pain jarring, but it went away. Hard to tell because he ran the court like someone who continually cared about getting from here to there.

"There is no swelling, so that's a good thing," said Bynum, who blocked six shots Friday in the win over Charlotte. "I realize where I can be a huge help to the team, so I'm just putting all my energy into the defensive side of things. I'm trying to get every rebound and block every shot.

"Teammates are probably mad at me because I'm not posting up as aggressively as I probably could be. But I think we're a much better offensive team moving the ball like we are."

With Bynum dominating the middle and altering countless shots, our heroes played like world champs. The first quarter was a masterpiece. If they play better, they will have another Larry O'Brien Trophy to add to their vast collection.

Go right down the list. Each starter played as if they were playing for the team with the best record in the league.

The Spurs looked so vulnerable. Now they have to be hoping the Lakers meet the Mavericks in the playoffs and Dallas prevails.

San Antonio had a 2-0 edge in games played previously against the Lakers, but that was at a time when our guys were pacing themselves. We all know how frustrating that can be.

But something happened after the All-Star break, or was it the loss to Cleveland? The Lakers haven't lost since going belly up, and now Coach Phil Jackson seems to be taking this week of big games as some kind of playoff prep.

The Lakers had the Spurs buried, but it wasn't enough to satisfy Jackson when the bench didn't play to his satisfaction. So he brought back the starters.

Once the game was over, it still didn't appear as if Jackson was all that thrilled with the overwhelming win.

Asked if he was excited, he said with a straight face, "I'm really excited."

"So this is what you look like when you're really excited?" I said.

"I'm bubbling over," said Jackson, and apparently Kobe Bryant was bubbling over just like Jackson.

When Bryant met the media, he looked as if someone had just swiped his favorite pair of shoes.

"Wasn't that the best the Lakers played as a team this season?" he was asked, and he said, "Sure."

"You don't seem that excited," came the reply.

"Why should I be?" said Bryant after winning the first game on a contentious four-game trip. It seemed like a monumental win with Orlando waiting for the Lakers when they return home and both Dallas and San Antonio maintaining the home-court advantage.

"We did good," said Bryant, and so much for thinking this was a laugher.

FOR THE record, Sunday was the 175th anniversary of the fall of the Alamo. The local newspaper reported the story as if it had just happened, quoting one of Gen. Santa Anna's officers as saying, "the assault began at 3 a.m., and firing lasted a half hour."

It seemed different in the movie.

THE ASSAULT seems almost endless. Rick Neuheisel's picture appeared on Page 2 again, a large picture to go with a derogatory story about UCLA football.

Not surprised?

It was Page 2, all right, but Page 2 in the sports section of the San Antonio Express-News on Sunday morning.

It made me feel right at home.

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