Lakers center Andrew Bynum puts up a shot during the Lakers' victory… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )
Elgin Baylor talks almost wistfully about the craft of rebounding, as if it's artwork that has been misplaced or a treasure trove that can't be retrieved from deep-sea waters.
He was a 6-foot-5 forward for the Lakers when he took 30 rebounds in a 1961 game against the Cincinnati Royals. He was watching on TV when Andrew Bynum grabbed an equally striking 30 rebounds Wednesday against San Antonio.
"When I first saw him, I liked him. This young man had a lot of potential and could be a terrific player," Baylor, the former Clippers general manager, said Thursday. "Getting 30 rebounds is no surprise because he's capable of doing it. He's really put together well. He has a great body."
Baylor had some advice for Bynum, whose previous career high was 23 rebounds last April against Utah. "He has to be a little more consistent," Baylor said. "Now he knows he's capable of doing it. He has to go out with that attitude every night."
Bynum became the fifth Laker to reach the 30-rebound barrier, joining Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan.
It's a skill typically left to the taller ones, though Baylor somehow led the Lakers in rebounding a team-record seven consecutive seasons.
The Lakers stunned the Spurs, 98-84, in part by crushing them on the boards Wednesday by a bewildering 60-33 margin. "When I was in high school, we had a coach who always put emphasis on rebounding. Certainly you have to play defense, but if you outrebound an opponent by a great number, it creates a lot of opportunities and you'll win a lot of games," Baylor said.
Rather than grasp the significance of the event, Bynum was initially more irritated by missing 13 of 20 shots, saying, "I'm going to go to the gym and try to fix that."
He saved some words for his accomplishment.
"They missed a lot of jump shots. They were shooting very quickly and they were coming off really nice and soft," Bynum said. "A lot of them came to me. They missed airballs and they fell right to me. I just had my hands ready."
Chamberlain, who died in 1999, had the most rebounds ever for the Lakers, 42 in a 1969 game against Boston. He had 30 or more 14 times with the Lakers.
Mikan, who died in 2005, had 36 rebounds twice in 1952, against Philadelphia and Rochester.
Abdul-Jabbar had 30-plus rebounds twice with the Lakers, including 30 in a 1978 game against New Jersey, the last time a Laker hit the mark until Wednesday.
In a recent interview with The Times, Abdul-Jabbar expressed the need for Bynum to "figure out a way to stay out there" after a recent spate of on-court no-no's, including an ejection and a benching. But Abdul-Jabbar said Thursday that a 30-rebound game "helps mitigate other stuff."
"He's got to do more of it. Once they know you can do it, they'll want more. It's good to have those expectations heightened," said Abdul-Jabbar, who hopes to visit South Africa next month as a U.S. global cultural ambassador.
Abdul-Jabbar said Bynum could continue trending upward.
"He's getting comfortable with the game," said Abdul-Jabbar, who played four years in high school and four in college while Bynum played only two years of high school basketball before going pro. "I was a seasoned veteran compared to him. All the success you see him have comes about with him consolidating his knowledge of the game and gifts of the game."
It won't be known until Friday whether Kobe Bryant plays against the Denver Nuggets. Bryant missed three consecutive games because of a sore left shin, though he was improving daily and went to the team training facility Thursday for more treatment. The Lakers are 2-1 in his absence.