Andrew Bynum’s improved rebounding and efforts on the defensive end of the court has been a major reason why the Lakers are on a eight game winning streak. Photo by Jeff Lewis
Bynum’s improved play pivotal for L.A. win streak; Sacramento considers relocation to Anaheim and Kevin Love ties Moses Malone.By Michael Brown, Sentinel Sports WriterBynum Key in Lakers Surge How does a player dominate a game while only scoring four points? Easy, Lakers center Andrew Bynum’s Sunday performance at San Antonio was a perfect case and point.During the Lakers’ thrashing of the Western Conference leading Spurs, Bynum finished a modest 2-for-2 from the field, but added 17 rebounds and three blocks.From the outset, as the Lakers built a 21-point first quarter lead, Bynum established himself by contesting shots, grabbing six offensive rebounds and guarding the paint like he owned it. Bynum’s defensive play rendered the Spurs Tim Duncan ineffective.Every time Duncan ventured into the paint, Bynum shadowed him. Duncan finished 1-for-7 from the field for a measly two points. Duncan isn’t what he used to be as age and injuries have taken their toll, however, it’s not everyday that the crafty veteran is held to scoring two more points.The Final score, 99-83, wasn’t indicative of how dominant L.A. was. Garbage time baskets were plentiful for the Spurs, but Lakers fans should take solace in the fact that Bynum may have finally figured it out.For more than two years, Coach Phil Jackson has been encouraging Bynum to concentrate on defense and rebounding. Bynum’s been a reluctant listener and has insisted on being a scoring option.And for good reason. Aside from Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Bynum has more talent than any other big man in the NBA. I don’t think Bynum has been comfortable with playing a role. That’s an assumption on my part, but it’s a conclusion I’ve arrived at since watching Bynum grow from a raw teenager to a player on the cusp of stardom. He sees himself as a potential focal point of an offense.Instead of the Lakers flipping a “switch,” maybe the light bulb clicked on for Bynum. When he defends and rebounds, whether he scores four or 40 points--the Lakers can’t be beat.If Bynum has bought into being a defensive force and rebounding monster, the Lakers’ seven-game win streak is just a preview of what the rest of the league will be facing come playoff time.Can L.A./O.C. Market Support a Third Team?
Will the Orange County fans come out to support a Kings team led by Marcus Thornton? Photo by Jeff Lewis
That’s the question being bandied about as the Sacramento Kings consider relocating to Orange County, which would make them the third NBA franchise in the region.The Kings’ possible relocation to Anaheim will depend upon a variety of factors, but first, the franchise wanted more time to think about it. Last week the NBA granted Sacramento owners, the Maloof brothers, an extension on the deadline to apply for relocation.The speculation has been fueled by the franchise’s inability to get a new arena built in Sacramento. The NBA has grown weary of the situation as well, evidenced by Commissioner David Stern’s comments during an All-Star Weekend press conference where he indicated the league “would not spend anymore time on that.”For all intents and purposes, the ball’s in the court of the Maloofs. They do need approval by a majority of the NBA’s owners, but that looks like a formality. If Stern wants the Kings to relocate, they will.So in the event that Sacramento does move to Anaheim, the question becomes: Can this region support a third NBA team?My answer: Yes.The demographics, arena, potential corporate partners and avid NBA fans are ready-made like a well prepared “just add water” package. But in this case, replace “water” with “competent ownership” and voila, you could have a potentially successful franchise.The 2009 Census estimates that Orange County is home to three million people while Sacramento has a little more than 270,000.Those sheer numbers make Anaheim a more attractive TV and advertising draw, increasing the money stream for the Maloofs who have been dealing with some well publicized financial difficulties lately.The Kings would have to find a place in the market amidst the Ducks, Angels, Disneyland and Orange County’s exceptional high school football programs. Luckily for the Kings, Orange County is still a pretty affluent area despite the recent economic downturn.Southern Californians don’t mind spending discretionary income on entertainment, provided that we’re watching a winner, and that we’re being entertained. The Maloofs would have to lure a big named free agent to pair-up with the young pieces they have on their team.In addition to Orange County’s population, the Kings will be exposed to more than nine million people in L.A. County, according to the 2009 Census. Chances are the Kings will have no chance of peeling off any Lakers fans, but Clippers fans--that’s another story.This potential venture could succeed if the Maloofs don’t overreach. The Lakers are an institution in not only L.A., but internationally. Simply put, the Kings shouldn’t try to compete with Jerry Buss’ franchise.However, the Clippers are fair game. If the Maloofs can grab some Orange County fans who don’t like to travel to L.A. for Lakers games; dissatisfied Clippers fans; and hold on to Sacramento die-hards who will still follow the Kings, this deal could work.Kevin Love’s Incredible Double-Double Streak When Kevin Love was drafted after playing one-year at UCLA, who would have thought that one day he would be mentioned in the same sentence as Moses Malone.If there’s an NBA scout out there who projected that Minnesota’s Love would tie Malone’s record for double doubles and become an All-Star, no one has found that guy yet. On Monday night, Love extended his double-double streak to 51 games by scoring 23 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in a loss against Dallas, tying Malone’s NBA record.Love can break the record Wednesday when Minnesota plays Indiana. Although Minnesota is awful (15-50), Love has excelled individually, proven by his 21 points and 16 rebounds per game average--and 60 double doubles.Love’s an example of a player who didn’t just settle for playing in the NBA, but excelling in the NBA.With a six-foot-ten, 260 pound frame, an adept shooting touch and excellent passing skills, Love’s talents alone could have kept him on a roster. However, Love turned up the intensity and rebounds like Dennis Rodman used to.And I’ll admit I didn’t see it coming.
With the college basketball tournament selection process scheduled for Sunday, I thought about Love’s UCLA team four years ago that lost in the Final Four to Memphis.During the game, Love struggled against Memphis forwards Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey and I thought, “If this guy can not get a shot off in college, how will he do in the NBA?”I didn’t think Love was athletic enough to be an impact player and that guys with length would give him problems. But I was wrong. That’s something to think about as we all watch the NCAA Tournament over the next few weeks.
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