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Since the Lakers have gone 4-1 with Kobe Bryant sitting on the bench due to a shin injury, many critics have pointed to Andrew Bynum's recent dominant performances as a product of a Kobe-less team. These critics have also implied that Bynum is playing well simply due to Kobe's subtraction. Bynum actually contributed to this narrative by bringing up his recent upward allocation of touches during an interview before the nationally televised game against the Mavericks on Sunday. While it does make sense for Bynum's offensive numbers to increase with Kobe Bryant on the bench, it doesn't necessarily mean that Bynum is more efficient. Bynum's activity level in the paint has been more impressive than the amount of shots he has been taking.
Andrew Bynum became the first player since Moses Malone in 1982 to follow a 30 rebound game by scoring over 30 points in the next game. This historical feat has not been accomplished in 30 years! Think about all of the great centers from the past 30 years; not one of them was able to do such a thing. Pretty impressive. But do you know why that stat is so impressive? Well it's not because of the 30 points, let's just get that out of the way. Walton, Abdul-Jabbar, Olajuwon, Ewing, Robinson, O'Neal; those guys were all great, and they could all score 30 anytime they wanted. The real impressive stat is the 30 rebound mark. Getting 30 rebounds in one game is all about effort. Bynum shot 7-20 against the Spurs, but he didn't let that impact his effort level on the boards. Bynum was 5-15 in the first half of that game, but he had 19 rebounds at the half. He actually had 1 more rebound than the entire Spurs team at the half. Bynum's offensive activity took a dive in the second half, as he shot 2-5, but Bynum still crashed the glass and pulled down another 11 rebounds. Bynum's 30 rebounds were 2 short of the entire output of the Spurs that night. Despite his offensive struggles, Bynum played hard and controlled the paint. Fast forward to the Nuggets game on Friday. Bynum followed up his historic rebounding night with this line, 11-19 for 30 points, with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal, and 4 turnovers. I don't want to sound too critical of a 30 point game, but Bynum should have had no problem getting a double double against the likes of an undersized Kenneth Faried, a stiff Timofey Mozgov, and the bonehead of all boneheads, JaVale McGee. For this being Bynum's best offensive game of the Kobe-less stretch, some things jump out. First is the number of turnovers. Those 4 turnovers are the highest Bynum accumulated in a single game during the 5 games without Kobe. Bynum clearly struggles against quick double teams. Bynum is much more effective when he is able to take two dribbles to set up his move and shoot in rhythm. When Bynum is doubled immediately, or just after one dribble, he tends to hold onto the ball too long and turn it over. Bynum still needs work on passing out of double teams quickly and easily. If Bynum really does want to be the featured offensive focal point, this will need to be improved dramatically. Those turnovers may not seem like a lot, but for a post player, someone who doesn't handle the ball too much, 4 turnovers is a lot. The next item that jumps out is the efficient use of the touches Bynum had against the Nuggets. Bynum took just 19 shots, and he efficiently made 11 of them. Bynum actually had more touches, as he attacked the rim and was fouled multiple times, making 8-11 free throws, his highest free throw output of the Kobe-less stretch. Throughout the Kobe-less stretch, this efficient game stood out as an exception rather than the norm. However, Bynum's 30 points put him in a place not seen in 30 years. His consecutive efforts were clearly impressive. Now that I've covered Bynum's spectacular nights that put him in the record books, it is time to look at the 5 game Kobe-less stretch as a whole.