Andrew Bynum to have increased role
Bynum will make his season debut Saturday after sitting out the Lakers' first four games with a suspension for his hit on J.J. Barea in the Western Conference semifinals last spring, and new coach Mike Brown expects a lot out of this six-year veteran this season.
"He's going to see the ball probably a lot more than he did in the past, but he'll have to be able to do something with it in order to get it and keep getting it," Brown said.
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Bynum, 24, has career averages of 13.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game. Brown said he would like for Bynum to blossom into a "double-double guy" this season.
"Does that mean 10 and 10 or 20 and 10? I don't know," Brown said. "But I think he can be a double-double guy."
The 7-foot, 285-pound center averaged 20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 32.0 minutes per game in the Lakers' two preseason losses to the Los Angeles Clippers. Last season, he averaged 11.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 27.8 minutes per game after missing the first 24 games of the season while recovering from right knee surgery.
"I want get out there and dominate on the low block. That's what I'm here for," Bynum said after practice Friday. "I want to get out and I want to play."
Bynum, who told reporters he was still working himself back into game shape during the preseason, said he still needs to improve his conditioning after missing game action and reps with the first team in practice this week.
"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."
Brown plans on playing Bynum around 34 minutes, so it will be a trial by fire for Bynum, appearing in his first NBA game that counts for anything since May.
"He's going to play his regular minutes," Brown said. "He better be ready. Obviously, if he can't go then I'll take him out, but I'm not going to ease him in to nothing. There's no easing in to anything for him."
A big part of the reason Brown was hired as the Lakers new coach was how he sold the team's brass on how he planned to utilize Bynum and Pau Gasol in a twin towers offensive system, similar to how the San Antonio Spurs used Tim Duncan and David Robinson when Brown was a part of that organization.
"I'll force the issue," Brown said. "I'm not thinking short term, I'm thinking long term. I had a decent feel of the direction that I want to go long term and am starting to have a feel for how many minutes I want Andrew to play long term. So, I'm going to try to play him those minutes [Saturday] so I can get a feel for the rotation, process and all that other stuff."
Bynum's insertion into the rotation will have the most noticeable effect on the rest of the Lakers bigs in Gasol, Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy. Gasol will shift from center back to power forward and his minutes will likely be reduced slightly from the 35.8 he averaged through the first four games to Brown's target of 34 minutes per game for the four-time All-Star. McRoberts will move to the bench, where he'll split time with Murphy as Bynum's and Gasol's reserves.
"Before the season, if you were to ask me, I would have said I'd have a three-man rotation for those two spots, but both Troy and Josh have played well for us and they've given us something in different areas," Brown said. "I may to try to play all four guys if I can."
In Bynum's absence, Gasol averaged 16.8 points and 9.0 rebounds, McRoberts averaged 6.0 points and 6.3 rebounds and Murphy averaged 4.8 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Bynum could put up the biggest numbers out of all of them. Kobe Bryant once famously said, "I eat first, Pau eats second" when referring to the flow of the offense, but Brown vows to hold Bryant and the rest of the guards accountable if Bynum does not get his fair share of touches.
"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," Brown said. "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."
Brown said he didn't know if there were any other centers in the West of Bynum's caliber, then later conceded that Denver's Nene and Memphis' Marc Gasol should be Bynum's main competition for an All-Star bid this season. Bynum will match up against Nene on Saturday and Sunday in the Lakers' home-and-home, back-to-back against the Nuggets.
Sometime during training camp, Bynum was asked by a reporter what his goal for the season was. Instead of declaring his intentions to be named an All-Star for the first time of his career, Bynum said he wants to finish in the top five in the NBA in rebounding. Last season, Bynum's 9.4 rebounds per game ranked him 11th in the league.
"That's a terrific goal," Brown said of Bynum's plan for the boards. "I'm excited that he would think that way, because that's what he should think first."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.