BOSTON — There are probably more than a dozen reasons why the Lakers won’t deal Andrew Bynum to the Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony before the NBA’s Feb. 24 deadline, but here are five good ones:
1. You can’t coach size. Bynum is a 7-footer and when he’s not recovering from a knee ailment, he’s perhaps the most promising big man in the game today. He’s got more offensive moves than Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, to whom he’s frequently compared. His length when coupled with Pau Gasol’s gives the Lakers a dominating duo in the paint. How many other teams have two 7-footers like the Lakers? None.
2. Despite what you might have read elsewhere, at the moment the Nuggets are just shopping Anthony around. They’ve got to do this to gauge the interest and field offers. You don’t go buy the first car you test drive, do you? Or the first house you stroll through with the real estate agent, do you? The Nuggets are simply calling around to see what teams might offer. If they haven’t called all 29 teams by now, shame on them.
3. Now is not the time for the Lakers to make a major roster shakeup. They have shown some signs of life in recent games. Even during their loss last week to the San Antonio Spurs, they played the grinding defensive style that helped them win the last two NBA championships. Against the Memphis Grizzlies the other night they clogged the paint with Bynum and Gasol and Ron Artest, Derek Fisher and Co. forced turnovers. They’ve got a good thing going, and this season is not the time to mess with it.
4. What does Anthony bring to the table in what is Phil Jackson’s final season as the Lakers’ coach? He needs the ball in his hands to be successful. He needs shots. He needs a lot of shots. But isn’t that Kobe Bryant’s role with the Lakers? Personally, I’m always suspicious of duplication on NBA rosters. Years ago, I covered the Clippers when they had three or four of the same player at several positions. They didn’t win because they were young and immature, but they also had too much duplication on the roster.
5. If you’re the Nuggets’ management, do you really want to deal your best player to your worst enemy? Trading Anthony to the Lakers could be the Nuggets’ worst nightmare for years to come. Bryant has led the Lakers past the Nuggets twice in the last three seasons during the playoffs. Now imagine Anthony sticking it to his old team again and again and again during the postseason. The Nuggets know they shouldn’t make the Lakers better and they won’t trade Anthony to another team in the West.
BOSTON — Our friends at ESPN have reported this morning that the Lakers and the Nuggets have talked about a trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to Los Angeles and Andrew Bynum to Denver. Will it happen? A team spokesman denied comment. But consider that general managers talk all the time, particularly in the days before the trade deadline. it makes sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Anthony is one of the league’s best players and Bynum’s progress has been stunted by a string of knee injuries. It doesn’t make sense for other reasons, including the fact that the Lakers would be giving away one of their two 7-footers. Their size is their biggest strength.
Anthony would have to agree to a contract extension of $65 million over three seasons in order for the trade to happen, according to ESPN. Of course, the same people reported recently that an Anthony to the New Jersey Nets deal was on the final lap and it ended up collapsing in a very public heap. Over the weekend, the network also reported a Denver-New York-Knicks-Minnesota Timberwolves swap was in the works.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Kobe Bryant led six Lakers in double figures in tonight’s victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, scoring 19 points. Pau Gasol added 17 points and nine rebounds. The Lakers mucked up the game pretty good in the fourth quarter, holding the Grizzlies to 16 points on 7-for-21 shooting. Sam Young had 22 points for Memphis.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Lakers looked like they might be in big trouble in the first half tonight, but they rallied from an early nine-point deficit and led by as many as seven. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol scored 10 points apiece and Andrew Bynum had nine. The key was keeping the Grizzlies from gaining momentum after they started quickly. The Lakers couldn’t contain Sam Young, however. He had a team-leading 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting. The Lakers had five turnovers in the opening half, one more than they had for the entire game Saturday against the New Orleans Hornets.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Coach Phil Jackson made it clear tonight he likes the game of power forward Zach Randolph, who seems to have found a home with the Memphis Grizzlies after a number of NBA stops, including the Clippers. Jackson planted his tongue firmly in his cheek when asked why Randolph is so successful: “He’s left-handed. The other side of the brain is working hard there. He’s clever. He’s got a great shooting touch. He’s actually 6-foot-11, but because God chose not to give him a neck he only measures 6-9 or 6-8 1/2. So, with his long arms, he can get a lot of offensive rebounds.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This question always comes up from time to time: Why is Andrew Bynum on the bench for the end of the Lakers’ games? The short answer is that Lakers coach Phil Jackson prefers Lamar Odom’s experience and versatility to Bynum’s size and relative inexperience during crunch time. Bynum grumbled about not finishing games a few years ago and Jackson snapped, “What does he know? He’s just a kid.” In time, Bynum probably will move into the coveted position of finishing games. That time is not now, however.
NEW ORLEANS — The Lakers kicked off their seven-game trip with a solid victory tonight over the New Orleans Hornets. They committed only four turnovers, one shy of the franchise record. Pau Gasol scored 34 points on 13-for-17 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds and Kobe Bryant added 32 points on 10-for-22 shooting and nine rebounds. Andrew Bynum had 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting and seven rebounds. The Lakers shot 27 free throws to only four for New Orleans, one of the bigger gaps you’ll ever see.
Here’s TNT commentator Charles Barkley on Lakers center Andrew Bynum: “What’s frustrating and disappointing for me is Andrew Bynum. You keep waiting for him to take that next step and we haven’t even mentioned him (and) the All-Star team. You think about his potential and people talking about him becoming a great player. You have to wonder if he’s as good as he’s going to get. By this point, he should be an All-Star every year.”
Manu Ginobilii missed a 3-pointer, then Tony Parker missed a runner, then Tim Duncan missed and it looked like the Lakers might hang on for a victory tonight over the San Antonio Spurs. But the Lakers failed to box out Antonio McDyess for the third time in the closing seconds and McDyess swatted Duncan’s miss into the basket with 0.1 seconds to play for the winning basket. The loss dropped the Lakers to 7 1/2 games behind the league-leading Spurs with 32 games remaining in the regular season. It might not be enough time for the Lakers to catch up to the Spurs or as Andrew Bynum put it, “We needed to win this game. It sucks that we didn’t.” Now the Lakers hit the road for a seven-game trip, their longest of the season.
The Lakers looked like they were on their way to a healthy halftime lead tonight, moving to a 40-33 advantage over the San Antonio Spurs late in the second quarter. Then the Spurs surged, outscored the Lakers, 9-2, and pulled even by the halftime buzzer. The Lakers started the night 6 1/2 games behind the league-leading Spurs, so in many ways the game carried a little more weight than Sunday’s loss to the Boston Celtics. The Lakers have had the best record in the West the last three seasons, advancing to the Finals each time. Catching the Spurs and securing home-court advantage would be helpful if the Lakers hope to reach the Finals for the fourth straight season.