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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Luckily for Lakers, this Andrew Bynum absence will be brief

The Lakers' starting center, who has missed a great deal of time in the past because of injuries, will be back Friday after serving a two-game suspension for a flagrant foul.

March 20, 2011|Mark Heisler

Life without Andrew (cont.):

Happily for the Lakers, who have lost Andrew Bynum again, for once they know when he'll be back.

That's Friday against the Clippers when he'll have served the two-game suspension the NBA capriciously slapped him with for flattening Michael Beasley, who really just ran into Drew's cross-body block.

So Sunday night the Lakers were once more obliged to see what life was like without Drew

It turned out to be a pain, even if they beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 84-80, after trailing by five points in the last 5:45.

They didn't tie it until Kobe Bryant dunked, gently, with 2:22 left and didn't go ahead to stay until Derek Fisher's steal and layup with 1:56 left.

Not that there are any games that aren't painful for Bryant, playing with a sprained ankle and sore neck, we think.

Kobe doesn't sit out or discuss it, although the show he put on after failing to get about five calls, then hitting the fadeaway 14-footer that put it away — yelling, making scary faces, pumping his fist, high-fiving a fan — suggested

What?

"I thought it was just normal, you know," said a bemused Coach Phil Jackson. "You mean pulling his jersey over his head and running up and down the court? You thought that was animated."

And that was just one of 82 games?

How does anyone make it through this in one piece?

As a matter of fact, Bryant didn't last season, starting the playoffs with a knee so sore, it almost ended his and their season in the first round against Oklahoma City.

Hopefully for the Lakers, Bryant's injuries aren't as serious, although he doesn't give updates, to the press or anyone else.

"I don't think even those of us who work with him every day understand the discomfort and pain he's in so many times when there's something going on," said Fisher.

"Let's not forget, he's coming off knee surgery [last summer]. His fingers look like the PCH, how curvy they are. He had one of the worst ankle sprains I've seen in my career [suffered March 12 in Dallas] and he hasn't missed a game

"He's a warrior. He loves to compete and whatever it takes to be out there on the court for his guys, that's what he's going to do.

"And regardless of how he plays, his presence makes us who we are so we have to have him out there."

As a matter of fact, Bryant shot 27 for 77 the last four games. Before this one, Jackson mused how nice it would have been if some of those misses had been passes.

"You can't have guys shooting like Kobe's been shooting recently and have a team offense that's good," said Jackson, in professorial mode. "Seven for 19 drags the whole team down."

Of course, doing something about it is another matter, like arguing with a force of nature.

Bryant went nine for 20 Sunday, just enough to help his guys claw through the first of their two without their beloved Andrew.

Yes, it's a new day for Bynum, the ritual target in Lakerdom, who just had his best extended stretch alongside Pau Gasol, combining to average 31 points, 22 rebounds and 3.8 blocks.

Actually, it was only 12 games but even if Bynum gets fluid on his knee meaning he can use the rest the Lakers are hopeful of seeing it continue.

Not that any of them, even Jackson, contested the flagrancy of his foul making it one of the few times Phil has agreed with anything the league did.

In another surprise, Jackson said he supports what he called "el flagrante."

Helpful as ever, he suggested a new standard for the length of sentences, replacing the current mysterious process

Let Bynum sit out as long as Beasley!

Perhaps coincidentally, Beasley didn't miss any games, playing Sunday in Sacramento.

Of course, as Jackson noted, "It could be ridiculous if it's a career-ending injury, right?"

Gee, the Lakers have waited six seasons to see this much of Bynum. Things are tough enough.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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