Lakers Need to Prepare Bynum for Later Rounds

Heading into the playoffs, the Lakers were the favorites to win the whole thing, thanks in no small part to the fact that they were expected to have a healthy Andrew Bynum back in their starting lineup. But just four games into the post-season, Bynum has lost his starting job, and has barely been involved at all in the team's three games to one series lead over the Jazz.

L.A. may not have needed Bynum to beat the Jazz, but they certainly will to beat some of the other teams in the later rounds. He didn't start in Game 4 because Mehmet Okur returned to Utah's starting lineup, and Phil Jackson felt that the team would be better suited to defend a more spread-out Jazz offense with Lamar Odom on the floor instead.

When Bynum did get his chance in Game 4, it was late in the first quarter, and it was only for three minutes or so to spell Pau Gasol. He returned for the last 1:14 of the first half, and then sat out the entire third quarter, before returning briefly for some garbage time minutes with the Lakers up by 20 and 7:30 to go in the game.

It's true that Bynum wasn't effective out there, but he seemed to be on an awfully short leash.

"I just was going to do it by my intuition, which you have to do," Phil Jackson said.

Bynum should have been allowed to stay in to finish out the game, if nothing else just to let him try to get some rhythm back. But Jackson pulled him less than three minutes later, after a bad pass led to a turnover, followed by a personal foul and a missed jumper from the outside.

Let's not forget that Bynum missed 32 games with a knee injury, and just returned for the team's final four games of the regular season. Averaging just seven minutes per game over his last two, Bynum is struggling to get his game back.

"You got to play to get it back," Bynum said. "Over the last three, four games, I think I've only played like a combined 30 minutes. That's not really enough to get your stuff back together."

It's unclear whether or not Bynum will come off the bench again in Game 5, but what is clear is that the Lakers need him to be productive if they're going to make their expected run at a championship.

There's no question that a Monday night victory to close out the Jazz is important. But the significance of getting Andrew Bynum back into form before it's too late should not be underestimated.

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