Friday night marked the ninth straight game Pau Gasol missed due to his once-minor, now-mysterious hamstring injury that has sidelined the Spaniard since Oct. 9. At this point, who knows when the two-time all-star will return?
But really, who cares?
The Lakers – winners of six of their last seven – are 7-2 behind the Black Mamba’s league-leading 31 points per game, including three 41-point performances. They’re averaging 110 points in those six wins after falling short of the century mark in their first two contests.
And that’s just scratching the surface. If you dig a little bit deeper, you’ll notice that Andrew Bynum is quickly coming into his own.
Now in his fifth season, the 22-year-old has posted 20-plus points on four occasions and double-digit rebounds in all but one of the seven games he has played. His 21.9 points and 11.9 rebounds per game rank second and first, respectively, among all centers. But Bynum’s most impressive stat, perhaps, is his +26.43 efficiency rating, which is fifth-best in the entire league, not to mention tops for centers.
Unfortunately for Bynum, knee injuries have hindered his last two campaigns, resulting in 79 regular-season absences during that span and leading to inconsistencies in his overall performance – or lack thereof. For instance, in those two seasons he combined for only 34 double-doubles in 85 games. To add insult to injury (no pun intended), Bynum was essentially a non-factor throughout last season’s playoff push when he failed to record double-digit rebounds in any one game and totaled less than 10 points in 18 of 23 outings.
So which Andrew Bynum will emerge this season? The promising big man or the injury-plagued tease?
Whether he continues to blossom or otherwise withers, I can promise you one thing: With the resurgence of the Celtics, Lakerland will definitely care.
Josh Hoffman is a college junior working to become a sports journalist. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Written by Josh Hoffman