Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register reports that the Lakers have not looked great with their two big men -- Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum -- playing together. And team consultant and straight-shooter Tex Winter says the problem has not been Gasol.
The two have never played together before. Bynum was injured before Gasol arrived by trade from Memphis. But it has long been assumed they would make a nice pair. Bynum has been very promising in the post, and Gasol prefers to play power forward.
But both need time in the post, and when Gasol's a little further from the hoop he's in Kobe Bryant's real estate. And they have not yet mastered the art of working together on defense to protect the rim and rebound.
To put it bluntly -- and [Tex] Winter always will, which is why Michael Jordan loved him -- Gasol has been a lot better than Bynum in camp. (I can still hear what Tex flatly offered me last training camp about Kwame Brown: "Kwame apparently is not very tough.")
Winter said a major factor in the slow start so far has been Bynum not giving maximum effort in practice.
"He's just not exerting himself, maybe," Winter said. "And most of the other guys are. I think he just needs to play a little harder."
Bynum has said himself that practice work hasn't had him completely riveted.
"This is the first year where it's kind of a little bit boring just because we have to run through the same stuff we already know," he said.
But Winter also might be somewhat predisposed to spot Bynum's shortcomings after being critical when Bynum's work ethic was lacking the past.
"He's tremendously talented and he's really lost that baby fat," Winter said. "He has matured physically. He can run so much better than he used to. It's just a question of him learning to play a little harder, compete a little harder. I think that'll come."
It helps the Lakers' overriding optimism that Gasol has looked downright dynamic out on the wing as a face-up player. He definitely prefers playing power forward to center, and it is inevitable that Bynum and Gasol will start together - just maybe later than sooner.
"Gasol has shown signs of playing the power forward pretty well," Winter said. "He has a lot of all-around skills. And when Bynum gets with it, I think it'll work itself out."
Ding also reports that the Lakers have been putting a greater emphasis on running, which could be a further reason to consider benching Bynum in favor of a quicker player like Sasha Vujacic or Trevor Ariza.