For Andrew Bynum, The Future Is Now

Written by: Brian Champlin

Since his return in mid-December Andrew Bynum’s production and minutes have steadily increased, his effectiveness seeming to grow game by game in direct proportion to his conditioning and touches in the post.

Bynum seems comfortable nestling back into his role as a solid contributor in the starting lineup, a great third or forth option, and a big body who clogs up the lane as secondary line of defense. The question remains though, is having Bynum in that role enough for this year’s Lakers or are they going to need something more out of him to make a run at a third consecutive championship? Taking a quick peek at the status of Bynum’s key teammates helps make the answer to the above question all the more obvious.

Kobe Bryant recently revealed that he has a “bone to bone” situation in his knee. A lack of cartilage that has grounded him from participating in practice for the entire regular season so far. With 46,000 minutes and counting Kobe is approaching his best used by date. But who can say just exactly when that will be? And is there any chance he might hit the wall at the worst possible moment, like say the 2011 playoffs.

His primary sidekick, Pau Gasol, has himself looked worn down this season. While he came out of the gate setting the league on fire, the 39 minutes per game he was averaging seemed to catch up with him in short order, as his efficiency took a nose dive during a four game losing streak in late November.

And just how much will Lamar Odom have in the tank by season’s end? While his play has been as solid as any other Laker to start the year and even has him being mentioned (deservedly) as a dark horse All-Star candidate, the sheer volume of games he’s endured coming off an NBA championship run followed by playing in the Worlds over the summer makes one wonder if he’ll be just as effective in late May or June as he has been to start the year.

As for Derek Fisher, well we all know how clutch he is in the playoffs, but equally well known is that he’s also only three years away from collecting social security.

Then there’s Ron Artest who, for all his eccentricity, is having the worst statistical season of his career. Maybe he should appear on Jimmy Kimmel in his boxers to recaputre some of last year’s karma.

The truth is, the Lakers are getting old. No, they’re not on the cusp of crumbling just yet. You wouldn’t say they’re over the hill only… experienced. Veteran. Savvy. Old but, you know, in a good way.

And yet looking down the line at the roster of the current Lakers virtually every key player has already hit their ceiling in terms of NBA production, and in some cases have regressed significantly from the players they once were (looking at you, Ron-Ron). No, there really isn’t much room for individual improvement. No quantum leaps in production to be forecast. No players who are are really going to step up their games, only those might take a step back because of injury or age. Well, except maybe one. That big guy #17 in the middle.

Next: Andrew Bynum: The Key to the Three-Peat

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