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Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Andrew Bynum's bounce back game?

By Andy Kamenetzky

Lance Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
This is what Lakers fans hope to see from Andrew Bynum tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Even Lakers fans with the most eternal sunshine lodged in their spotless minds would concede that December hasn't been a particularly kind month for Andrew Bynum. His 13 ppg dips below his seasonal average (16), but even more dramatic has been the rebounding drop off. It's hard to imagine an All-Star caliber center (or just a tall one) grabbing only 5.4 per game, but those are Drew's numbers for 2009's final month. Toss in an DQ in eleven minutes against New Jersey and frequently lethargic, often defeated body language and it's easy to grow concerned about Bynum, who's struggling to find his place since the Nov. 19 return of Pau Gasol. Some signs of life were recently exhibited against Detroit, but all in all, it's been tough sledding.

In theory, a date with the Oklahoma City Thunder is just the ticket to snap Drew out of this rut. In two previous meetings this season, Bynum has destroyed OKC, averaging 23.5 points on a redunkulous 73.5% clip from the field, with nine rebounds snagged for good measure. Jeff Green will have his hands full guarding Gasol, which will leave Nenad Krstic often isolated in his attempt to slow AB17. Yeah, that's not gonna work. So why the "in theory" caveat? Because once Krstic gets into foul trouble, Thunder coach Scotty Brooks will send in Etan Thomas, the polar opposite of the spindlier Krstic. Thomas is a banger (and published poet, if that somehow aids Drew's scouting report) who takes no possessions off and has the strength to make Bynum work under the basket. When the two met at Staples on Nov.22, it was pretty much "Advantage Bynum," but the Lakers' Nov. 3 game in Steer Country saw Bynum's effectiveness and ability to get good position dramatically altered whenever Thomas checked him. ET's energy is also never an issue, which may provide Bynum (and fans) with a roundabout favor: a barometer to measure progress in defeating this slump.

Forget the points against Krstic, because he's defensively challenged against most centers. Instead, note how dialed in Drew remains stepping outside the paint where the Serbian big likes to shoot. And when Thomas and Bynum are positioned to grab a rebound, keep on eye on who wins the battle, but even more importantly, the effort expended if Drew loses. Should he get beaten while putting up a good fight, so be it. But if the energy is an issue while Thomas out-eats his glass, Laker fans will be left to wonder what's wrong.

Four more items to keep an eye on during Lakers vs. Thunder:

I wonder what ever became of that janitor from that video.