Andrew Bynum (above) gives the Lakers a much-needed shot blocker and a more powerful low-post threat, which will help Kobe Bryant in his quest for a fourth title.
John W. McDonough/SI
As Kobe goes, so go the Lakers: Bryant shot 48.0 percent from the floor last season in L.A. wins but only 41.8 percent in losses. However, he scored more when the Lakers lost (29.9 points per game) than when they won (27.6).
Record: 57-25 (1st in West) Points scored: 108.6 (4th in NBA) Points allowed: 101.3 (19th)
With a healthy Andrew Bynum in the lineup, these Finalists think they can go all the way
Dressed in street clothes and parked at the end of the bench, injuredcenter Andrew Bynum could barely sit still during the Lakers' flameout againstthe Celtics in the Finals. "I saw those Boston guys just driving the lane,getting whatever shots they wanted," he says. "I think my presence would havemade a difference. I could have been in there altering shots and making guysthink twice."
The Lakers believe that a healthy Bynum is the missing piece of theirchampionship puzzle. The 7-foot 285-pounder was in the middle of a breakoutyear, averaging a double double and leading the league in field goal percentage,when he dislocated his left kneecap last January, ending his second pro seasonafter 35 games. If Bynum, who turns 21 on Oct. 27, can pick up where heleft off, L.A. will get a much-needed boost to its Charmin-soft interior. Hisreturn also enables 7-foot Pau Gasol to slide back to his more naturalpower-forward position and, with Vladimir Radmanovic or Lamar Odom (both are6-10) at small forward, gives the Lakers the league's tallest frontline.
Bynum is ready for the challenge. He spent the summer in Atlanta with apersonal trainer rehabbing his knee and says that it now feels 100 percent. He alsoworked on his game with former NBA swingman Gerald Wilkins, hoisting from 500 to1,500 shots a day. "I picked up a nice 10- to 15-foot jump shot," he says."That's really going to help me out."
But although the Lakers will make a post-season run, even a consistent jumperwon't turn Bynum into the secondary star (to Kobe Bryant) that L.A. needs to winit all. -- Marty Burns
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