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Andrew Bynum can be the Lakers best scoring office, but maturity issues are dogging him. Shooting three-pointers does not help either. Photo by Jeff Lewis
Russell Westbrook showed that the Lakers are old and slow, as he scored 36 points with ease against the Lakers. Photo by Jeff LewisThe Lakers soap opera continues as they make the final playoff push.By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
Lakers head coach Mike Brown recently said that there always seems to be some drama with this Lakers team. Was Brown really expecting anything different from that? If it is not immaturity issues with Andrew Bynum, it’s trying to figure out why Kobe Bryant is shooting poorly, or what is going on with Brown’s rotation that has Steve Blake getting nearly as much time on the court as Ramon Sessions. There is always an issue that the media and fans are going to clamor about, but one thing is for sure, last week the Oklahoma City Thunder took advantage of all of those issues and showed that a younger and more athletic team is now the team to beat in the Western Conference. Any illusions of grandeur that the Lakers had gotten their act together and were a legitimate title contender in the West quickly passed the Lakers by, faster than the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook ran right by them to the tune of 36 points on 13-of-27 shooting.The Thunder are a very young and athletic team, which is pretty much the opposite of the Lakers. But with Sessions, the Lakers have somebody who can match up athletically at the point guard position, but yet he only played 30 minutes in that game, compared to Russell’s 42. Back up point guard Steve Blake logged 18 minutes in the game, which is not a lot of playing time, but in those 18 minutes of play the Lakers were outscored by 14 points. In Sessions 30 minutes of play the Lakers outscored the Thunder by five points. Seeing that Bryant, Bynum, and Pau Gasol are all in the top ten in the league in minutes played, it only makes sense to play a younger and more athletic Sessions just as much. The major knock on the Lakers was that they were old and slow at point guard, but now they are young and extremely quick at that position with Sessions, which has a lot of fans wanting to see Blake sitting on the bench a lot more. Brown’s rotation has also come under fire because of the amount of minutes that the starters are logging. Bryant is third in the league in minutes played at 38.6 per game. His career average is 36.5.Shooting wise, Bryant is having his worst season since his rookie year, as he is shooting 42.5 percent from the floor, and in a close win over a bad New Orleans Hornets team, he had the worst shooting performance of his career by making only 3-of-21 shots. That broke his previous worst, when he was 3-of-20 earlier this season. Bryant has acknowledged that with the condensed season that gives the players less rest in between games, tired legs may be an issue."Fatigue might have something to do with it, but I had good shots," Bryant said. "You figure ways to work through it. I have a great team here and a lot of support. I really pushed myself defensively tonight to get after the guys, so sometimes you have to sacrifice a little bit of the offense and the stamina that you have to defend. That's what we believe is going to get us to the championship."There has been speculation that the problem with Bryant may be more than just fatigue. His wrist injury from earlier this season may be an issue, because he has not been taking a lot of bad shots as of late. He has been getting very good looks at the basket, but the shots are just not falling in. With Bryant’s struggles, it is becoming more apparent that the Lakers best scoring option is Bynum, but maturity issues are making it difficult to put the game in his hands. A few weeks ago Bynum was ejected after a referee warned him to stop mouthing off, but Bynum was defiant, which led to his ejection. After Brown sat Bryant down late in the fourth period of a loss, Bryant took the high road and spoke up for Brown, but Bynum said that the coach may have been trying to prove a point.The very next game Bynum takes a three point shot early in the shot clock, which enraged Brown so much that he benched Bynum for the rest of the game. After the game Bynum stated that he looks forward to taking more three point shots. In the victory over the Hornets, Bynum only attempted 10 shots, making seven of them. He said that he was passing the ball a lot more because he wanted to get 10 assists in a game. Not only did he finish eight short of that mark, but if he was actually trying to get more assists than shot attempts, than he is really trying to annoy somebody. It’s almost as if Bynum is back in middle school and he is blowing off his fifth period math teacher. At this point some believe that Brown has lost Bynum. That Bynum does not have respect for Brown, so the big man is doing his own thing. New reports say that Bynum had a scheduled meeting with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak to straighten out some issues, but Bynum decided not to attend, further angering Lakers management. Bynum has finally emerged as one of the best centers in the league, as he is averaging career highs in points per game (18.3) and rebounds (12.1). But if he continues to be a problem child, the Lakers may not be able to lean on him in the playoffs. His first injury of the season does not help matters either. But the ankle injury does not seem to be severe, so it should not hamper him for too long. The Lakers are going to need Bynum’s ankle, and attitude, to be all right, because after they play the Houston Rockets at home on Friday night, they will have three consecutive road games next week. At Phoenix on Saturday, at New Orleans on Monday, and at San Antonio on Wednesday. The road, which was a huge issue for the Lakers for most of the season, may be the least of their issues. They have won five out of their last six road games.
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