Bryant: Bynum now Lakers' No. 2 option
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers have been through a lot of change since last season, from Mike Brown being hired to replace Phil Jackson to Lamar Odom being traded to the Dallas Mavericks and Ron Artest becoming Metta World Peace -- and the change is continuing with a major shift in the Lakers' offense.
Now it's Kobe, then Bynum, then Gasol.
"It seems like it's changed a little bit," Bryant said after the Lakers' 97-90 win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday. "Andrew is thirsty to score and he can score. He has more of a scorer's mentality [than Gasol], so we'll take advantage of that."
Bryant is averaging 27.8 points on 23.1 shot attempts per game through the Lakers' 5-4 start to the season after pouring in 39 points on 13-for-28 shooting against the Warriors. Bynum is averaging 19.6 points on 14 shot attempts per game. Gasol is averaging 17.1 points on 12.2 shot attempts per game.
Gasol eclipsed Bynum against Golden State, scoring 17 points on 8-for-15 shooting to Bynum's nine points on 3-for-9 shooting, but Bryant said Bynum will grow into his position as second-in-command on offense as he gets accustomed to dealing with double teams.
"We will be going into him a lot," Bryant said. "He's kind of taking over that role. He'll just get used to the consistency of touches and dealing with double teams and stuff like that. He'll be fine. He's a quick learner."
Even though the 31-year-old Gasol is a four-time All-Star and his 18.8 points per game career scoring average nearly doubles the 10.6 points per game career average of the 24-year-old Bynum, Bryant said Gasol is "not a scorer by nature" and Bynum's development ultimately "takes a lot of pressure off of Pau."
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Brown said before the game that Gasol will be relied upon to balance scoring with spreading the ball around in the offense. Earlier in the season, Brown complimented Gasol for how he passed the ball against the Sacramento Kings and said it reminded him of how Gasol played a distributor role on the Spanish National Team.
"With the stuff that we run, there's a lot of opportunities for him to be a facilitator because he is a scorer that can facilitate," Brown said. "He's probably the best combo guy we have on the team and so we have a lot of our sets, especially our sets that go to Kobe, where Pau is around that free throw/elbow line area and he's making the decision with the basketball, whether he's throwing it to Drew or he's throwing it to Kobe ...
"There's one basketball and you can't have three guys averaging 20-25 shots a game. So, there's got to be a little bit of a pecking order in terms of who you're going to and so on and so forth."
When Gasol was asked about how he, Bryant and Bynum balance shot opportunities between them, he cut off a reporter's question to note how he and Bynum "share the rest of the cake" after Bryant.
"It's a little bit of an adjustment, but Andrew has been effective so that's why we're going to him a little more," Gasol said. "As long as he's effective and he scores and he's big in the paint as he has been, we'll continue to do that. We have to have a little bit of balance. We can't just be posting up. ... Somebody has to space the floor a little bit and sacrifice themselves a little bit, so we just have to understand that and [do] whatever it takes to win games."
Even though Gasol's role as a scorer has diminished, he had one of the biggest buckets of the night on a 16-foot jump shot off a Bryant feed to put the Lakers up by nine with 2:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Bryant and Gasol embraced near center court after the Warriors called timeout following the play.
"We have to make plays like that down the stretch where he trusts that the open teammate is going to convert and make the right decision," Gasol said. "I think it's important for us to make those plays, knock those shots down and then he'll be more comfortable kicking the ball out when he's double teamed."
Said Bryant: "I think it's natural. You got to be who you are. Andrew, he loves to score, so we got to feed off of that. Pau is just going to take what the defense gives him."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.