It was a fairly mellow afternoon in El Segundo, the vibe notably casual after a whole bunch of hand-wringing over the Lakers' 0-2 start (which came on the heels of more hand-wringing over "pick your favorite issue since camp opened"). But after two straight wins, a feeling of normalcy has blanketed the Lakers, and with Saturday marking Andrew Bynum's return to action after a four-game suspension, that ease further increases. Missing those four games was as tough on Drew as the Lakers, and it felt even weirder being separated from the team.
"Suspensions are definitely weird," shrugged Bynum. "You're not hurt. There's nothing wrong with you, so you're kinda just sitting out, watching all the games on television. That's all I did... Even in practice, you can't really practice, because they have to simulate game situations and you won't be out there. So you gotta your work in before they get to the arena, and all that. It's almost like you're trying out again."
In terms of getting up to speed with the game plan, Drew said he feels pretty good defensively, since very little has changed for him beyond showing hard on pick and rolls. The offense remains a trickier work in progress with "things I still need to get accustomed to," but he's scouring the playbook. The biggest concern, truth be told, is actually conditioning.
"I won't be able to play major minutes at this point," Bynum said. "I'll be a little bit winded, probably. So, I'm going to be out there working on my game."
Well, Bynum missed these games as punishment for a playoff elbow to J.J. Barea and as the saying goes, there's no rest for the wicked. As I noted in the Forum, Mike Brown is a slave to the most exact details possible, and matters such as his desired rotation have remained murky with his starting center unavailable. That period now passed, he's not up for waiting any longer than necessary for answers. Thus, when told Drew didn't think he was capable of playing big minutes, Brown just offered a wolfish grin:
"He gonna play his regular play his regular minutes [which Brown estimated might be around 34]... He better be ready. Obviously, if he can't go, I'll take him out, but I'm not gonna ease him into nothing. There's no easing him into anything."
Still, despite being seemingly allergic to vague generalities, that's essentially what Brown when asked about statistical expectations for Drew.
"I don't really think about it," said Brown. "When I look at our team, I know Kobe's gonna score. I think Pau [Gasol] could be a double-double guy or close to it. I think that Metta [World Peace] off the bench is gonna be a double figure guy [scoring]. Andrew will be a double-double guy. But in terms of, does that double-double mean 20 and 10, I haven't really put up a point total."
Brown also thought Bynum's first All-Star bid was a possibility this season, but not a given. Players like Nene and Marc Gasol could offer competition, and he's also not entirely familiar with Drew's skill set as his new coach. But, as he noted, "from the outside looking in, you see him getting better every year." Plus, there will be opportunities to pad his stats. Brown said Bynum will be fed often down low, but cautioned that with great touches comes great responsibility.
"He's going to see the ball probably a lot more than he did in the past," predicted Brown. "But he'll have to be able to do something with it in order to get it and keep getting it... He's going to get the opportunity just based on how hard he runs the floor and where he decides to sit down and post up. If he does a good job of doing that and my guards don't get him the ball, I'll talk to my guards about it because you got to reward big fellas for doing that."
With Bynum back in the lineup, Josh McRoberts will move from the starting lineup into the bench role the lakers inked him to play. But in theory, that may be the only change at hand. Brown said McRoberts' role or responsibilities don't shift one iota playing with the second unit. For that matter, while acknowledging the task's paper, Brown will actually try to maintain the current big man rotation of Bynum, Gasol, McRoberts and Troy Murphy.
"Before the season, if you would have asked me, I would have said I was gonna have a three man rotation for [power forward and center]. But both Troy and Josh have played well for us and they've given us something in different areas, so I may try to play all four guy if I can ... If I can get them both playing an equal amount of minutes, that would be good."
This suits McRoberts just fine, as does the notion of keeping him and Murphy on the court, presumably often at the same time. The two were Pacer teammates during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and familiarity with each other's on-court styles and preferences has helped offset the learning curve of Brown's new systems.
"For a few years there, when I was in Indiana, I was kind of a younger player, still am, but to be in my first couple years, he'd kind of have to walk me through stuff or kind of talk to me. Where I can kind of talk with him a little bit now. I know a little bit just from being here a couple more days than he was, and he can still help me. We both can kind of see things on the court and tell each other what's happening and kind of explain it. And also, just being out there together, he knows what I like to do, I know what he likes to do, and what his strengths are."
As I noted in Thursday's Lakers-Knicks Rapid Reaction, McRoberts strikes me as a fan favorite in the making, between the constant hustle and the dunks. (He did, however, reject my (facetious) assertion the Steve Blake-Josh McRoberts alley oop connection is L.A.'s real "Lob City.") Such players often get nicknames from fans. Josh never particularly liked the handle created for him by the Pacer blogosphere ("McBobs"), but nonetheless isn't terribly picky about what he might be called in L.A.
"It's not something I think about. I think everybody was saying the "McRambis" name was catching on, but that's fine with me. I've been called much worse than that. As long as they keep it PG like that... As long as my Grandma can read it, you can call me what you want.
When the question of a McRoberts nickname was posed to Brown, he went the "70's television" route.
"I don't know why, but remember that show called 'The White Shadow?' With his high socks, it just came to mind. Like 'The White Shadow,' because you think he's Dr. J, but he doesn't look like Dr. J. So he's kinda old school, and the only old school guy I know who's kind of famous is 'The White Shadow.' "
Brown agreed with my assessment that McRoberts' game is more "Salami" than "Goldstein." I, in turn, agreed with his assessment that, easy going as McRoberts may be about this whole nickname issue, he probably wouldn't enjoy folks calling him "Salami."
Pau Gasol talked more about the frontcourt depth provided this season by himself, Bynum, McRoberts and Murphy.