— Many observers of the 2008-09 Lakers would say that the one thing truly lacking from Andrew Bynum’s game during the first half of the season was consistent and prolonged aggression. All too often, the explosive 21-year-old looked passive, waiting for opportunities and bounces to come his way rather than decisively chasing them down.
And when Bynum did finally manage to work up some aggression, it was more formidable than most observers could have imagined.
First, there was the string of statistical outbursts that began on Jan. 21 with a 42-point, 15-rebound demolition of the Clippers, then saw the invigorated seven-footer average 26.2 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks over a five-game span.
And there was a decidedly negative manifestation of Bynum’s assertiveness last Tuesday, when Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace elevated for an emphatic dunk attempt, prompting an unexpected response from the awakened Lakers center. Rather than putting his hands straight up in the air or attempting to block the shot (or deciding to get out of the way), Bynum jutted an elbow into Wallace’s midsection, sending the Bobcats swingman to the floor with a broken rib and collapsed lung.
And oddly, four days later, it was a brief lapse in aggression against Memphis that resulted in a significant amount of damage — this time to Bynum himself. During the first quarter of that game against the Grizzlies, Kobe Bryant took off for a wayward and off-balance layup attempt, while Bynum — in a momentary facsimile of his former passive self — stood and watched the ball carom off the rim. And in that brief daze of indecisiveness, Bynum didn’t see Bryant falling to the floor in the direction of his right leg. The resulting impact and MCL tear now has Bynum sidelined for as long as three months.
The lesson here (aside from the fact that luck can be ruthless) is that unadulterated aggression is a largely positive force in Andrew Bynum’s universe. Lakers followers (and anyone who appreciates dynamic basketball in general) can only hope that once the weeks and months of rehab ahead are complete, the rapidly developing center can quickly rediscover the mindset he so effectively captured during an inspired 10-day run this January.
Now, a look at some other notable happenings from the past week in the NBA:
Hanging Out Near the Quad
With apologies to Mo Williams (43 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists and seven threes last Wednesday), the most obscenely gratuitous statistical performance of the week belonged to Chris Paul, who posted 27 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists and seven steals last Monday, missing a quadruple-double by exactly three steals for the second time in a fortnight (on Jan. 14, he finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists and seven steals). CP3 has never topped nine steals in a game before, but it’s only a matter of time before the planet’s premier point guard adds the quadruple-double to his rapidly burgeoning list of relatively outrageous statistical achievements.
Oven Mitts are Advised
Three things you should never do under any circumstances: 1) accept an item containing sugar from a strange or unknown individual; 2) approach or pet a burning dog; 3) walk anywhere within the general vicinity of Eddie House when he’s as searing hot as he was last Wednesday. On that particular day, House hit 10-of-13 shots (and 8-of-9 threes) for 28 points in just 20 minutes, giving him a total of 22 threes (on 32 attempts) in an eight-day span. The good news for the safety of those individuals occupying the area surrounding House is that the Celtics combo guard has cooled off significantly, hitting for a combined total of eight points and two three-pointers in the two games that followed his long distance firestorm.
Also notably scalding at mid-week was Knicks guard Nate Robinson, who single-handedly set Madison Square Garden ablaze with 20 of the Knicks’ final 28 points during an eight-minute, 26-second fourth quarter barrage in a win over the Hawks on Wednesday. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, Robinson may not be a tall man, but he knows what an electric performance is.
Look Away, I’m Hideous
You probably wouldn’t have realized it if you simply saw the final score of Heat 95, Hawks 79, but the Hawks did something rather ghastly last Monday night in Miami. At one point in the first half, Atlanta went over 13 minutes without a field goal en route to a franchise record-low 27 first half points.
For more perspective on the Hawks’ ineptitude that evening, with just over three minutes left in the half, the score was Dwyane Wade 16, Hawks 19 (the Hawks trailed 39-19 at the time), and at the half, Wade was shooting 8-for-10 while the Hawks were 8-for-26. Atlanta salvaged a small modicum of self-respect by trimming the lead to seven points in the fourth quarter, but by that point the damage to the ongoing evolution of basketball and to the collective psyche of Hawks fans had already been done.