This weekend they learned Bynum likely will be out for two weeks with a strained left Achilles tendon. The injury came just running up the court Friday night, then the tests came back over the weekend saying it was nothing too serious, he just needs a couple weeks off.
Only in this case is losing your starting center for two weeks greeted with relief. With Bynum’s long history of serious injuries — not to mention slow recovery times — an injury to the Lakers center just a month before the start of the playoffs was a serious cause for concern. He missed 32 games last year and was not the same guy in the playoffs, he missed 46 the year before and never suited up in the post season. Just missing him for two weeks is not ideal, but it is far better than the worst-case scenario.
As for the short term, no problem so far: The Lakers beat Washington 99-92 on Sunday. The Lakers dominated the first half, were up 28 early in the third, got bored and let the game get closer than it should have been, but it was never in serious doubt. Bynum or not.
“We’re used to playing without Andrew,” Jackson said, referring to the long stretches of the last two seasons and even part of this one when they had to. Lamar Odom slides into the starting lineup, and while the bench gets weaker the Lakers are still one of the most talented teams in the Association. And they still win plenty.
But things are about to get tougher, the Lakers head out in a five-game road trip that includes San Antonio, Houston and Atlanta. Then the Lakers come home to Utah. Lakers fans feel the heat of other teams trying to take the top seed in the West away from Los Angeles — Denver is 5 games back, Dallas 5.5. However, with the Lakers having just 12 games left, it would take a total collapse by the Los Angeles to lose that home court advantage through the West. Not going to happen.
The real question is momentum — can the Lakers pick up any the last couple weeks of the season without their star center? Now is the time of year when coaches want to see their teams start to bring a real playoff focus — for a full game, not just a half. It is something for Jackson to talk about, but the leaders in the locker room — Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher — need to make the urgency felt. The Lakers have done it before the last two years, they just need to do it again this year. Then they get their big man back.