Monday , Jan , 14 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

Why Are the LA Lakers Winning? Maybe With Andrew Bynum Injured, We are Going to Find Out

Why Are the LA Lakers Winning?  Maybe With Andrew Bynum Injured, We are Going to Find Out

I have been scratching my head at the success of the Lakers this year.  What changed so dramatically in the off-season?  With all of the drama over the summer, one had to figure things were not going to get better.  Yesterday, as I was wondering this, I posted the question over in the HoopsVibe forum to try to get some answers. 

There are really only a handful of possibilities.  The first is Andrew Bynum’s development.  As he develops and decreases the importance of Kwame Brown, only good things can happen.  The second is the replacement of Smush Parker with Derek Fisher.  I think I may have under-estimated the value of Fisher.  The third is Kobe Bryant being more of a “team player.”

Working backwards, Kobe’s shooting percentage is down from the last two years; although, he is on pace to take less shots.  As a result, he’s averaging a slightly-more-mortal 27 points-per-game whereas he has been over 30 the last two years.  He has always struck me as the type of guy who needs to keep shooting to stay in the game.  Are the Lakers really better off with him taking less shots?  He’s also averaging about the same in assists and rebounds as in the last two years.  I do not see much of an on-court change with him except that he’s shooting worse.  Maybe his locker-room demeanor really is the key?

Fisher can be trusted to come up with clutch plays and run the offense, but, statistically speaking, he’s not blowing away Parker’s numbers.  Unquestionably, he’s an improvement.  Maybe the fact that he does everything a little better ends up being a huge plus.  He’s slightly better in points (12.4 to 11.1), assists (3.5 to 2.8), field goal percentage (47% to 43%), three-point percentage (42% to 37%) and turnovers (1.19 per game to 1.87 per game).  Were the Lakers just looking for a guy to do all these things better and add that layer of leadership?  While Kobe is their best player, has he ever really been their leader?

Bynum’s year has been somewhat surprising.  Perhaps it shouldn’t have been.  He has been spending all that time with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and was publicly called-out by Bryant.  Yesterday, I was of the opinion that his game has given the Lakers the inside-out threat they need – with Fisher and a few other to knock down open shots, Bryant able to do his thing and a threat in the middle the Lakers look tough.  Yesterday, Bynum went down with a sprained knee and there is an MRI scheduled for later today.  He’s probably going to miss at least a game or two.  Maybe this will let us see how the Lakers play without a legitimate post player?  If they revert back to the Lakers of a few years past, maybe that is our answer.

Everything, though, keeps pointing back to better team chemistry.  Maybe Phil Jackson’s positive front-office relations are making everything harmonious.