BYNUM WEARING A BOOT Bynum left the arena quickly after the game, exiting before the locker room was open to media and wearing a walking boot to protect his strained left Achilles tendon. The injury, Bynum said, came as he was running back on defense.
"I felt a really sharp, really quick pain. Maybe one or two seconds of really sharp pain," he said. "We'll check it out tomorrow."
Phil Jackson was clearly troubled by the night's events. "We're a little concerned," he said. "He'll probably miss a while."
Not exactly rosy. Don't know if candle stores stayed open late Friday to accommodate those hoping to get a quick vigil together, but if that's not an option for you I recommend crossing your fingers, then taping them down so they remain crossed during any hours spent sleeping.
KOBE HAS AN ALTERNATE THEORY You saw what Phil had to say, and after missing huge chunks of two seasons with a pair of knee injuries, Bynum himself was understandably reluctant to deliver a prognosis in the tunnel on the way to his car. But like most of Drew's teammates, Kobe Bryant was optimistic the big center wouldn't miss much time. "I saw him after the game, and he wasn't limping too much," Bryant said.
Kobe laughed when asked if he'd ever tweaked his Achilles. "Sure, I've had it all," he said, but quickly added his experience may have been instructive. "I was fine," Bryant smiled. "I had Nike’s on. It’s a little bit of a difference." What was Bynum wearing? "They ain’t Nike’s. I don’t know (what they are, but they’re not Nike’s."
At the 6:54 mark of the first quarter, Andrew Bynum went down with an injury to his right knee, one turning out to be a tear in his MCL sidelining for very nearly the remainder of the regular season.
March 19, 2010. Lakers vs. Minnesota.
At the 10:09 mark of the third quarter, Bynum leaves the game with an injury to his left Achilles' tendon, to be re-evaluated Saturday.
I put both games together not to imply Drew will be lost for an extended period but because the reaction of his teammates was nearly the same. When Bynum left the game in Memphis, the Lakers had a 13-11 lead. Less than four minutes later, the Grizzlies polished off a 12-5 run to take a five-point lead. They'd eventually fall behind by eight late in the second quarter before storming back in the second half, outscoring the home team by 60-37 to win running away.
Tonight, the Lakers were up by 10 when Bynum went to the locker room, and less than five minutes later found themselves down by two. It doesn't take much for a team to lose its edge in the NBA, even against weak opponents, and watching an immensely valuable piece of the championship puzzle limp to the tunnel will certainly do the trick. But just as it was over a year ago in Memphis, the Lakers righted the ship and responded with strong play. After Minnesota's Jonny Flynn gave the Wolves their lead, Kobe Bryant twice found Pau Gasol for dunks, his 10th and 11th assists of the evening. Jordan Farmar followed with a slick finish at the rack, and a pair of free throws. The Lakers put a stamp on their resurgence after Gasol tracked down an errant corner jumper and with serious hustle managed to keep the ball in play, tossing it back out to Shannon Brown in the back court. He found Lamar Odom slicing through the lane for another dunk.
The burst put L.A. back up by eight, and they controlled things the rest of the way. Final score, 104-96.
Again, there's no news right now putting Bynum's injury tonight even in the ballpark of either knee injury he's suffered over the last two seasons, but the similarities in how each affected the game were noteworthy.
D.J. MBENGA READY TO PLAY After Bynum went down, the Lakers turned to D.J. Mbenga to relieve Gasol in the fourth quarter. Over 5:52 of playing time, Mbenga grabbed three rebounds and registered a block at the rim against Ramon Sessions. After the game, Mbenga reiterated his mantra of always being ready to play. "Like I always say, the first time when I signed here, I was ready to play. I made sure every time they gave me the opportunity I would always be there. When they give it, I show, they take," he said. "Whenever they’re going to give it to me, I’m ready."
I've had a chance to talk with D.J. throughout the season. Like a lot of reserves, especially guys burning for P.T. both to satisfy their competitive nature and to fully establish themselves in the league, Mbenga always feels he has something to contribute, that he could do more if given the chance. Speaking with him after the game I was struck by how he almost seemed angry it takes an injury to a teammate for the opportunity to present itself.
He wants to get on the floor, but not at the expense of another guy.
"It’s not easy for me to see Andrew hurt, because I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be the kind of player sitting waiting for someone else to get hurt, because it’s painful," Mbenga said. "I can’t do that. I don’t want someone to sit and wait for me to get hurt. I don’t like that. I want him to be healthy, because I want everybody to contribute to win a championship. I love him, I want him to be ready to play."
Unfortunately, that's the nature of the gig, and not a particularly pleasant aspect of it. "Yeah," he agreed.
As a point of reference, when Bynum went down last season Mbenga's minutes remained relatively sporadic, but did increase. (In part because they had nowhere to go but up. His spot in the front court pecking order meant Mbenga barely played at all before Bynum's knee gave way.)
GASOL'S RESURGENCE CONTINUES Pau Gasol, who entered Friday's action having hit a robust 29 of his last 38 shot attempts (that's a 76.3 percent clip to you and me) had another strong game against the Timberwolves, drilling seven of his 13 hoists en route to an efficient 17 point, 14 rebound, four assist night. This despite still feeling the effects of the tonsillitis keeping him out of Thursday's practice in El Segundo.
Maybe it's because he's feeling healthy, maybe it's because Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem were courtside to cheer him on, either way Gasol seems to have rebounded from a stretch of sub-par play. "I was feeling better the last few games, then I got this throat infection and fought through it for two days. Still fighting through it now," Gasol said. "But I definitely feel well physically, and ready to face this last part of the season. I'm really excited about it. I think we all are. It's about to get interesting."
Hopefully not too interesting, though.
Gasol didn't want to think about the possibility of Bynum missing time. "It would be hard to miss Andrew for any period of time, because he's been playing really well, too, and is such a great player for us down low. Contributing a lot in many ways, and he's matured his game and developed a lot lately. Hopefully it won't be anything, and if he's out if it'll take a couple games, maybe. Because we need him back."
BIG NUMBERS 6: The amount of Lakers in double figures, and with eight points, Shannon Brown fell just one old fashioned two-pointer of making it seven. While the Lakers' 41.5 percent mark from the field isn't "Dear Diary" fodder, they definitely made a conscious effort to share the wealth.
13: A baker's dozen in assists for Kobe, who picked up seven dimes in the first quarter alone. He also set up a few teammates via crowd-pleasing behind-the-back specials, including a fast break-capping beauty to set up trailing Pau Gasol for a dunk.
"It just depends on the defense," explained Bryant when asked how he decides between scoring and passing modes. "I just make them pick their poison. Either they're playing me man up to start the game or they don't. They decided to come after me, so I hit my guys and they made shots."
16: Darko Milicic's point total on eight-of-12 shooting, complimented by a dozen rebounds and three dimes. If my man from Serbia stays true to his word and indeed heads back to Europe after his contract expires, he ended his Staples Center career on a high note.