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Tag:Pau Gasol
Posted on: January 27, 2012 11:30 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 5:24 pm
 

Friday 5 with KB: A Magical Time

By Matt Moore



In this week's edition of 
the Friday 5, we look back on extensions week, ask if the Celtics are back, and of course, check in on Dwight Howard. You can follow Ken Berger on Twitter @KBergCBS

1. After two games between Orlando and Boston this week, is Boston "back?" 

Ken Berger: I still think they're going to be OK. What a difference when Pierce has it going. He's clearly getting his confidence back. What happened Thursday night was as much about the Magic's fragility as it was about the Celtics' resilience. But to come back like that on the road, without Rondo or Allen, is a great sign for Boston. The Celtics' bench is still way too thin, and they don't have enough size. But one thing they need more than anything is some young legs and youthful exuberance, not to mention those attributes coming with meaningful contributions. They got that Thursday night from E'Twaun Moore. A much needed jolt for Boston's elders.

2. What extension decision, signed or unsigned, surprised you the most?

Ken Berger: I don't know that any surprised me, but the most interesting case was Eric Gordon. Given his knee situation, it's difficult to make a largely unnecessary long-term commitment now. But clearly the Hornets can't afford to lose the most significant asset they received in the Chris Paul trade. But much like Kevin Love's shorter extension with Minnesota, this arrangement could work out in Gordon's favor. If he comes back healthy and continues to put up big numbers, he'll command a bigger deal as a restricted free agent. And New Orleans knows they control the situation because they can match.

3. The Pacers have an interest in Eric Gordon. With his future in the air, is there any chance teams make a run at him in trade at the deadline?

Ken Berger: It would be logical for Gordon, the IU product, to wind up only a short drive from Bloomington. But I don't expect the Hornets to entertain in-season trade offers for him. There's no reason to panic since they have the right to match next summer.

4. We hear a lot about the Magic waiting to make a decision on Dwight Howard. But how about the Lakers? Are they going to give this team a chance to gel or will they pounce at the first opportunity for improvement?

Ken Berger: It always depends on the deal. If Howard can be had for a price that's less than Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, then the dialogue could catch fire pretty quickly. But unless Orlando completely goes in the tank -- and they haven't been playing well lately -- I see no signs that Otis Smith and Alex Martins are going to consider anything less than an all-out blockbuster offer for Howard. There's one caveat: If the realization of losing Howard for nothing hits the Magic organization like a freight train on March 14, it's impossible to predict now how they'll react.

5. Explain why the Minnesota Timberwolves not signing Kevin Love for as many years as possible is in any way a good decision on their part, please.

Ken Berger: I got into this in Postups yesterday. Basically, it's a good deal for both sides. Love has three years to determine if the Wolves are, in fact, going in the right direction. The Wolves, in turn, get to preserve their five-year designated player extension for Ricky Rubio. But Minnesota also will be able to get Love on a five-year extension after he opts out of the fourth year of this deal. And Love will get more money, too. With seven-plus years of service at that point, he'd be eligible for 30 percent of the cap.
Posted on: January 26, 2012 1:39 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2012 1:42 pm
 

Rufflegate: CP3 'incensed' over Gasol head rub

By Matt Moore

At the end of the Lakers' win over the Clippers Wednesday night, Chris Paul and Pau Gasol got into a dispute, of sorts. Paul and Gasol exchanged some words, and then some more words, and then Gasol ... how can we put this? He ruffled Paul's head. You know, like you would the paper boy, if paper boys existed if papers still existed. Paul, to put it lightly, did not take it well. Here's the incident. 



And after the game, Paul was not at all letting it slide. From the Los Angeles Times, which describes Paul as "incensed" after the game: 

 

"I don't know if (Pau) has kids, but I'm not one of them."

This rivalry is going to be so much fun.



(image via Got 'Em, Coach)
Posted on: January 26, 2012 3:29 am
Edited on: January 26, 2012 3:37 am
 

Report Card: Lakers get revenge in Battle of L.A.

Posted by Ben GolliverMatt Moore and Royce Young

Lakers' Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol proved too much for the Clippers. (Getty Images)

Your nightly report card gives you a big picture look at what happened each night in the NBA. Grades are granted based on team or individual performances, and are graded on a curve for each element. Leave your own grades in the comments.

Los Angeles Lakers

In the rematch of the Battle for L.A., the old guard finally emerged victorious over the up-and-comers. Pau Gasol set the tone for the Lakers early, Andrew Bynum made several key plays late, and the duo combined for 42 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 assists on 15-24 shooting while playing heavy minutes and dishing out plenty of trash talk. In a feisty, intense game filled with technicals and skirmishes, the Lakers kept their heads and executed down the stretch. Lakers coach Mike Brown will surely like the shot distribution -- 13 for Gasol, 11 for Bynum and 17 for Kobe Bryant -- and the end result, a 96-91 gutsy victory. Solid way to end a 3-game losing streak. -- BG

Blake Griffin's whirling dervish

Even in defeat, Clippers All-Star forward manages to do something jaw-dropping. Griffin was a high-energy freight train throughout, finishing with 26 points and 9 rebounds, but his most impressive play was more graceful than forceful. Sizing up Gasol in the low block, Griffin dove into the paint and rose for a spinning reverse flip shot that almost defies description.

"The guy's shooting a 360 jump hook," said Bryant, according to ESPNLA.com. "You have to enjoy and admire his stuff. It's pretty sensational stuff." Take a look at the video below. -- BG




The Fired-Coach Effect


It never fails. Worked for Sacramento earlier this season. Worked for Washington on Wednesday night in a romp of the Bobcats who all of a sudden are the worst team in the league. The Wizards made a point Wednesday. For a night, anyway. -- MM



New Jersey Nets

Every bad team (except Charlotte) gets a good grade! A great win of the Sixers that was all about beating up on what is usually a very good perimeter defense for Philadelphia. Their burst in overtime was particularly impressive with Jordan Farmar and Deron Williams leading the way. -- MM



Dirk Nowitzki's color commentary

Dallas Mavericks All-Star forward has been sidelined this week as he attempts to work himself back into shape, but one thing that doesn't need any boot-camp training would be his vocal chords. Nowitzki filled in as a color commentator during Dallas' home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves and reacted hilariously to a Jason Terry to Brandan Wright alley-oop. "Oh my God!" Nowitzki screetched. "Shut it down! Let's go home! That is a wrap." Watch, listen and love.



Indiana Pacers


This was one of those "I watch the game, then look at the score, then my brain shuts down because the two element are incongruous. It seemed the Bulls were all over the Pacers, but the Pacers were incredibly patient and never got rattled by the Bulls' pressure in Chicago. Roy Hibbert essentially had his way with Joakim Noah. Danny Granger was bothered by Ronnie Brewer, all the way to 22 points and on 16 shots and nine rebounds. Really, this could have been a more convincing win had Darren Collison and Joakim Noah not played wretched in all things related to point guard game management. Paul George was efficient and the Pacers' defense on Derrick Rose deserves an award all its own. Even without Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, a huge win for the Pacers on the road as they start to build their resume with wins over L.A. and Chicago in the past week. -- MM
 
Detroit Pistons

They pass! They lost, yes, but the improvement shown in their close loss to the Heat on so many levels is enough to warrant a passing grade for this downtrodden team. With Tayshaun Prince out due to personal reasons, Austin Daye flourished, filling up the scoreboard while Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe both contributed. There's a young core in Detroit worth watching, if they can just scrap and claw their way to the front of the rotation. -- MM


Dallas Mavericks


Really? You lost on banner night to the Heat and rings night to the Timberwolves? Really? Maybe no more celebrations on game nights, Mavs. -- MM




Russell Westbrook

The Thunder's second star has picked up his game lately but took a step back Wednesday against the Hornets. Westbrook started the game 1-10 from the floor and finished just 4-14 for 14 points. And he also turned it over seven times. It was one of those Westbrook games where he made some crucial plays, but for the most part, was a touch out of control and didn't make great decisions. Twice he went for highlight reel jams only to be denied at the rim by a Hornet big man. OKC won, but Westbrook wasn't great. -- RY

Posted on: January 26, 2012 1:45 am
 

This is how the Lakers win

The Lakers shut down the Clippers and in doing so found their model for success this year. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore


The Lakers have struggled this season to establish any sort of identity. They look lost often times on both ends. Some of that is a new system, their first in really over a decade (we won't talk about the Rudy T year). Some of that is new personnel, with so many new pieces and the gaping hole where Lamar Odom used to be.

But in their rematch win over the Clippers, they found their model. Even distribution of offense between Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Byum, and emotional swarming defense from the reserves. Metta World Peace steps up to deliver key play after key play and the Lakers slogged Lob City into a swampish mode. When the Clippers aren't able to operate in space, their decision-making becomes suspect.

Now, it was still a come-from-behind win over the "little brother" in which the Lakers needed Metta World Peace, who has not played well in two years to come through in the biggest way possible, and a 32-14 free throw advantage, and a series of disastrous decisions from the Clippers (like a late Blake Griffin three attempt which he was out of bounds on), and for Chris Paul to look extremely rusty in his first game back from injury. But separate from their opponent, it gave the Lakers a sustainable approach.

All season long the Lakers have relied on inconsistent, unsustainable approaches. Kobe Bryant cannot score 40 per game against quality opponents shooting 30 times and have the Lakers winning. Andrew Bynum cannot get 25 touches. Matt Barnes cannot be the only role player contributor. They have been relying on flawed approaches, yet still winning enough, which shows you the talent on a Lakers team that seemed lost without Lamar Odom. But the Clippers game was different. They knew what they wanted to do, and for the first time this season, they bent their opponent to that will, to that team concept. It was an entirely new type of Lakers win, even if it seemed similar to other slots in the W column. 

It was the first time this season that we saw the Lakers' defense as it is supposed to be constructed. This was the idea. Heavey action for Pau Gasol in the post, as Gasol had a monster game. Andrew Bynum dominating with size. Kobe Bryant being Kobe Bryant (he only took 17 shots!). And a defense that forms a wall around the perimeter and attacks the handle aggressively. It's not pretty. It's not Showtime. And it has a long way to go. But that's how the Laker are supposed to play under Mike Brown. That's how it's supposed to go down.

And the result is very much what Lakers fans have come to expect. A win.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:10 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 4:58 pm
 

Pau Gasol wants to drop the jumpers and go inside

Posted by Royce Young

Laker fans are getting hungry.

It's not big secret, but the Lakers offense is struggling. Here's how much: They haven't scored 100 points since Jan. 3. That's 20 days without tacos. That's not acceptable in Lakerland. Those people want their tacos.

So what's the problem? It's easy to just point to things like Mike Brown and the adjustment from the Triangle, but it's also things like players are producing.

Blame Kobe Bryant all you want, but the guy is doing his part. He's tried the whole scoring 40 a night thing and while that works, that's not sustainable. He's tried cutting down on his shots and playing more efficiently, but that hasn't really worked. Why? Because his counterparts aren't picking up the slack. One notable name being Pau Gasol.

What's the deal with Gasol? He's not doing enough on the block, he says. Via ESPN.com:
"I would like to get a little more inside, myself," Gasol said. "I always like to have different looks and be able to attack from different angles. The second half I didn't have one chance to attack from the post, so I was more of a facilitator. I got two jumpers, open, that I missed, and that was all the opportunities that I had."

[...]

"A little too many jumpers for my taste," Gasol said. "I'd like to get a couple more looks inside the paint. That'll increase the [shooting] percentage."

Gasol isn't a bad jumpshooter by any stretch, but he is a dynamic post scorer. Gasol's scoring is down to 15.8 points per game, which is the lowest ever in his career. His shots attempts are down a bit, he's taking only 3.3 free throws a game and he's already taken 11 3-pointers this year (his career-high for a season is 15).

It's obvious that outside of the Triangle, which had post-up plays built in because of plays within plays, Gasol doesn't know how to get the ball in workable positions. He's not blaming Brown's offense so much as just saying he has to figure out how to get out of this jumpshooting rut and go back to the block where he's one of the best players in the league.

Nothing will help the Laker offense more than diversified scoring and that starts with No. 16. Once Gasol starts producing from inside and out, it opens the door to possibilities. You get the big man connection between him and Andrew Bynum, Kobe becomes more dangerous and the Laker shooters are a threat.

So if the Laker offense is going to get on track, a lot of it is going to start with Gasol finding his way to the paint.


Posted on: January 19, 2012 3:06 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 3:14 pm
 

5 Things to Watch: Lakers at Heat

The Heat need LeBron James, who is a gametime decision with flu-like symptoms, against the Lakers Thursday night in Miami. (Getty Images)


By Matt Moore


The Heat and Lakers are probably the most recognizable teams in the league at this moment in time. Featuring a likely six All-Stars between them, it's a marquee matchup of the season. Even with Dwyane Wade out and LeBron James a gametime decision, all eyes will be on South Beach Thursday night to see if the Lakers can get past the wall they've recently hit against LeBron's teams, and if Kobe Bryant can continue what has been an incredible month for him. The Lakers need this game to avoid another loss to a playoff team, and their second loss in three games, while the Heat need a win to stave off a disastrous four losses in five games stretch. With that, here are 5 Things to Watch or Miami Heat vs. L.A. Lakers 2012, Round 1. 

1. A Sick Attitude: LeBron James isn't feeling well. And it's not even the Finals! (Hey-O!) James is a gametime decision against L.A. due to "flu-like symptoms" that he's been dealing with this past week. James was also not feeling great against the Spurs and missed several layups and jumpers in the first half. Then apparently he had a Hi-C juice box at the half because he came out and demolished the Spurs in the third quarter to help the Heat turn a double-digit deficit into a double-digit route. That's what he can do. The question will be if his condition has worsened and how he reacts to it. Thanks to Michael Jordan, expectations actually raise if you have the flu. So LeBron's under pressure not only to win, but to extra special while sick. With the compact schedule, there's little rest, so James could be far less than 100 percent Thursday night. Which pretty much dooms the Heat. This is not the Hawks.

2. Spreading the Wealth: Kobe Bryant has been ridiculous over the past week, Mavericks game aside. He's been on tear of scoring 40 per game which came to an end against the Mavericks, but they got the win anyway. He's also been shooting an insane amount. His usage rate, or percentage of possessions used, is at 39.7 percent. So basically 4 out of every 10 times the Lakers come down the floor, he's the one who winds up with a shot or turnover. Against Miami, he may want to get everyone else involved so the Heat's help rotation defense doesn't neutralize everyone else, leaving him to go it alone. Granted, Dwyane Wade being out opens up chances for him (Shane Battier remarked after practice today that he was going to get some Hail Mary's in before the game). But the Lakers can dominate the Heat inside. An efficient game from Bryant that uses Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum's advantage over a small Heat frontline to open up opportunities for Kobe could be the difference. That way Kobe gets the points, and the win.

3. The Inside Man: Well, I was worried about Andrew Bynum tearing the Heat apart, but Eddy Curry might play. The Heat are saved! But seriously, Bynum should be able to have his way with the smaller Joel Anthony and much smaller Chris Bosh. The Heat may even put Dexter Pittman on Bynum due to his size, but the youngster won't have the experience or muscle to hang with the wunderkind. If Bynum gets touches, the Lakers can play at their pace and rough up the Heat. Do that and you slow down the Heat's transition attack, their biggest asset.

4. Old Friends: Mike Brown knows LeBron James' tendencies as well as anyone in the league, having coached him for years in Cleveland. And setting aside whatever personal history exists between them, Brown will likely have his team prepared to combat James' effectiveness, flu or no flu. Whether it's goading him into his ineffective mid-range jumper, bringing help at the right time and position, or attacking one hand or another, Brown will have one of the best books on James you can have in this league, and he has a quality defensive roster and Metta World Peace to implement on him. Classic matchup: superstar power versus coaching stratagem.

5. Next Generation: Norris Cole and Darius Morris could have a lot to say about this game Thursday night. Cole provides a full-speed, no hesitation bucket creator for the Heat they desperately need coming off the bench. Morris provides an athletic point guard, which they haven't had in eons. Derek Fisher's savvy and Mario Chalmers' athleticism and improved shooting should cancel one another out, which means whichever guard can make the most of the attention drawn by their superstar big brothers will make a big swing in a game that features a lot of veterans in role positions. You hate for a game to come down to two rookies, but considering the matchups, whichever handles the pressure better could help their team to a monstrous win.

Your Plus-3 for the game:

- Don't be surprised to see Chris Bosh heavily involved in trying to draw out Pau Gasol, who has struggled with defense in space this season. Bosh has excelled at the pump fake and go, but if his jumper isn't falling, Gasol can pack the lane along with Bynum, keeping the Heat in mid-range jumper mode.

- The odds of a physical conflict in this game are pretty high. Between Udonis Haslem, Andrew Bynum, Bryant and Battier, Matt Barnes, Metta World Peace and the rest of the Heat bench, this will likely not be a pretty game.

- Mike Miller hit his shots against the Spurs in his first game back. He better hope he hasn't used them all up. The Lakers will bring a lot of help and cheat inside on drives, which means Miller will have looks. If he knocks them down, that puts the Lakers' defense into disarray.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 7:17 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 2:19 am
 

3-on-2 Fast Break: Clippers vs. Lakers



3-on-2 Fast Break is a weekly feature here on Eye on Basketball where our intrepid bloggers tackle two questions, comparing two elements. This week, we focus on Saturday night's showdown at Staples between the Los Angeles Cippers and Los Angeles Lakers. Follow Eye on Basketball on Twitter and like us on Facebook

1. Let's keep it simple. Which of these two teams wins on Saturday night and why?  

Royce Young: Lakers. The Fighting Kobes are in a really good rhythm right now. Kobe is playing great, Andrew Bynum is looking dominant and all the pieces are fitting together. The Clippers kind of put all their eggs into the basket of beating the Heat and while I'm sure they'll be up for the Lakers, they've got to get past that overtime win first. And don't think the Lakers have forgotten everyone getting all excited about the Clips sweeping the two exhibition games at Staples in early December. People were talking about the changing of the guard in L.A., but those games didn't count. This one does. 

Ben Golliver: The Lakers have some serious positive momentum going thanks to a four-game winning streak which could become five if they top the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night. That the Clippers get two rest days heading into this one while the Lakers are stuck with the back-to-back gives Lob City an edge, but that probably cancels out the revenge factor that the Lakers are feeling after getting wiped up in two highlight-filled preseason games. Chauncey Billups has hit double figures and shot at least 6 free throws in four consecutive games for the Clippers; they will need his production if they are to keep pace with Kobe Bryant and company. Chris Paul finally had his signature game with the Clippers, scoring 27 points and making 11 assists in a Wednesday win over Miami and he gave the Lakers fits in last year's playoffs. I see him doing it again on Saturday to give the Clippers the win.

Matt Moore: The matchups here are enough to make your head spin. All-Star, phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime guards? Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. Behemoth young centers with size, strength and defensive ability? Andrew Bynum and DeAndre Jordan. Crafty veterans on the wings? Ron Artest, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes against Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, and Mo Williams. Power forwards with huge scoring ability who are almost unguardable? Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin. It's a tight set of matchups. I like the Clippers in this one. We saw what Paul was able to do against the Lakers in the playoffs last year, and they haven't upgraded a defender to guard him yet. On the other end, Pau Gasol doesn't like it when things get physical and the Clippers are in-you-face as they come. Bryant can swing this as he can any game, but I like Lob City to open up and outrun the older Lakers. 

2. We know Kobe's going to score, Griffin's going to dunk, CP3 is going to dish, and Pau is going to do Pau things. But what's the big unknown in this game that will end up deciding it?  

Royce Young: Points in the paint. Who gets the most easy baskets? Both teams are pretty solid defensively and both teams have players that can fill it up. But jumpshots only carry teams so far, especially late in games. The Lakers have Bynum and Gasol who are paint monsters, while Griffin gets a lot of his easy in transition. Execution will be tough because you know this game will be physical. It's going to come down to the little things like free throws, turnovers and again, easy baskets in the paint. Both teams can defend it well, but who is going to break down the other defense enough to score simple points. 

Ben Golliver: 
The answer to the big unknown question is always Andrew Bynum. He poured in his career-high 42 points against DeAndre Jordan back in 2009 and he's shown spurts of serious offensive productivity in this young season. Given that the game is on the second end of a back-to-back there's no guarantee that Bynum can fully exploit what is an exceedingly difficult match-up for Jordan. The only person who can keep Bynum off the offensive glass in this one is himself. The Clippers are second-to-worst in rebound rate on the young season and Jordan can be bullied with Bynum's width and strength. 

Matt Moore:  
Turnovers. The Lakers have turned the ball over a stunning amount this season up until the past few games, also notably the best games of Bryant's season. The Lakers are last in turnover percentage differential, while the Clippers are top-four in that same category. The Clippers also rank 3rd in transition offense according to Synergy Sports. The Lakers are ninth in transition defense. If the Clippers can get out and run, that's going to put more wear and tear on an older and banged up Lakers team. But if the Lakers get to grind it out, expect the Lakers' superior experience to win the day.
Posted on: December 31, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 6:57 pm
 

Theory and Proof: Andrew Bynum surprises in debut

Posted by Ben Golliverandrew-bynum-2012

THEORY: Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum is a prime candidate for a slow start in a lockout and suspension-shortened season.

PROOF: 29 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 1 steal, 13-for-18 shooting in 32 minutes in his debut against the Denver Nuggets. Not exactly what we expected. 

The last time we saw Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum in an NBA game, he had stripped himself half-naked in frustration after getting ejected for delivering a dirty, dangerous hit on Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea.

That day marked the beginning of what would be a long lockout for Bynum, who has dealt with questions about his maturity, his health, his conditioning and his potential use as a trade chip for seven months. 

From the outside looking in, there were reasons galore to expect a slow, sloppy start from Bynum. While fully healthy for the first time entering a season in a few years, Bynum was suspended for the season's first four games due to the hit on Barea, meaning he lacked the first week conditioning ramp up afforded everyone else. He was away from the professional game for seven months, given a two-week period of training camp and preseason and then forced to wait as everyone around him -- teammates and opponents -- continued to progress.

That's just the tip of iceberg. Bynum is dealing with a new coach, Mike Brown, and his new systems. He's dealing with a new rotation surrounding him that lacks forward Lamar Odom, dumped in a trade to the Mavericks. He's playing with the knowledge that his front office nearly blew up the roster to acquire point guard Chris Paul in trade and knowing that he is the No. 1 most desired chip if and when Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith bites the bullet and moves All-Star center Dwight Howard. Of course, Bynum is also dealing with continued scrutiny of his offcourt behavior, which includes a number of recent traffic citations and an embarrasing incident in which he was caught parking in a handicapped spot while grocery shopping.

To complicate things even further, Bynum was set to make his debut against the league's fastest team and highest-octane offense. The Denver Nuggets entered Staples Center on Saturday ranked No. 1 in pace and No. 2 in offensive efficiency. The Lakers, with questions about their lack of depth abounding, were facing a team that lacks top-end starpower but easily goes nine or 10 players deep to continually apply pressure and one that has two big men -- Nene Hilario and Timofey Mozgov -- to bang with Bynum.

But Bynum emerged -- from the layoff, the conditioning questions, the offcourt distractions and the challenging opponent -- as the player of the game on Saturday. He might not be the sole reason this game slowed down and got ugly, allowing the Lakers to eek out a 92-89 win in the game's closing seconds, but he was a big one.

17 of Bynum's 18 field goal attempts came in the paint. Five baskets came on follows or putbacks; 6 of Bynum's 13 rebounds were offensive. He helped L.A. win the points in the paint battle, 46-32, and he managed to stay out of foul trouble throughout. Bynum finished with 29 points, a number he has topped only once in the regular season, a career-high 42 points against the Clippers in January 2009 and he's only attempted 18 shots in a regular season game three other times in his career. Bynum scored L.A.'s first six points -- finishing with 10 in the first quarter -- delivering time-and-again as his team clearly looked to establish him early.

But the defining sequence came late, not early. With just under two minutes to play, the game tied at 89, Bynum swooped in to block a layup attempt by Nene, a swat that quickly led the other way in transition for the Lakers. Bynum sprinted -- have we ever seen him move this fast? -- to the other basket, collecting a pass from Derek Fisher and smoothly converting a layup to put the Lakers up for good. That bucket provided a leading margin that stood despite two long misses, a turnover and a missed free throw attempt from Kobe Bryant in the final two minutes.

The win pushes L.A. above .500, to 3-2, and Bynum's starring role buoys the spirits in Tinseltown, where the trade rumors, the rise of the Clippers and an injured wrist for Bryant have led to a lot of anxiety. Bynum's addition takes much needed pressure off of Bryant and provides insurance against inconsistency from Pau Gasol. The team's three-headed monster is back and looking, for a day, like it never left.

This season debut should help put to bed a lot of the lockout ghosts -- or illusions of ghosts -- for L.A.'s big man. Bynum now must turn his attention to the same problem facing every NBA player: finding a way to make a similar impact, night after night after night, in a compressed schedule that does its players, particularly the big guys, no favors.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com