Lakers trainer Gary Vitti checks on center Andrew Bynum, who sprained his… (Lori Shepler / Associated…)
Unlike in previous seasons, it doesn't appear that Andrew Bynum's latest injury has elicited much concern.
After suffering what the Lakers termed a "moderate sprain" in his left ankle, Bynum told the team's website he would "definitely" play Tuesday against the New Jersey Nets. Bynum's initial X-rays turned out negative, and The Times' Mike Bresnahan noted that the team didn't consider the injury serious enough to warrant a follow-up MRI exam. Meanwhile, Lakers Coach Mike Brown and teammates didn't express much concern over how Bynum limped off the court in the first quarter of the Lakers' 120-112 victory Sunday over the Golden State Warriors.
Still, the Lakers are listing Bynum as day-to-day. There's always a possibility he'll face some limitations too. So here are five ways to handle that possibility.
1. More post production for Pau Gasol. He may have fallen below Bynum in the pecking order. But his 26-point performance against Golden State was a reminder that he often gets lost in the shuffle simply because he's not featured as much in the offense.
"I'd like to, but when everybody is healthy, I just don't get those looks and those kind of touches," Gasol said. "It is what it is."
At the beginning of the season, Gasol at times felt out of place, but most of that had to do with his aggressiveness. In the last five games, however, Gasol has averaged 19 points and 11.8 rebounds while Bynum has averaged 17 points and nine rebounds. That points to Gasol's efficiency in the post and mid-range area while Bynum has lacked aggressiveness, as he has for most of the season.
2. Kobe Bryant can't afford a bad shooting night. Bryant's three-of-21 performance against New Orleans was part of a 10-game span in which his shooting percentage dipped, though he still logged heavy minutes. But as he showed in his 40-point effort against Golden State, he maximizes his talent and finds a way to remain effective.
Regardless of Bryant's skills and the team's inconsistent bench, Brown isn't putting Bryant in a position to succeed by playing him so heavily a month before the playoffs. Should Bynum remain limited, a poor shooting effort from Bryant would seriously drain the team's offensive efficiency.
3. Ramon Sessions must look to score. He appeared to turn a corner in his season-high 23-point effort against Golden State, with a balance between attacking the basket and setting teammates up. There's talent around Sessions to defer to, but Bryant and Gasol likely will face double teams. That puts the pressure on Sessions to look for his own shot so opponents have to space the floor more.
4. Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts need to do the little things. The two don't always provide much offense. Murphy's three-point shooting remains streaky, and McRoberts doesn't have many moves. But they can chip in by hustling on the boards and setting sharp screens.
5. The Lakers need to revert to their defensive principles. They've allowed at least 100 points in four of the last five games, partly because of Bynum's laziness. But blame his teammates too. The backcourt has been inconsistent in playing under and over pick-and-rolls. The Lakers don't always box out. They don't consistently communicate to close off the lane. The Lakers already needed to return to these roots; Bynum's absence will probably force them to do so.