I watched the Lakers-Bucks game yesterday, the first Lakers game I’d seen in a while. I was expecting to get a glimpse of the Kobe/Bynum show which has been steam-rolling through the league the past month or so. I got just that as both players combined for 62 points, 22 rebounds and 9 assists. Hang on, does that sound familiar? Kobe and his teammate centre going for 60 points combined? Has this not happened before? I have to tell you, watching the Lakers yesterday I was overcome with deja vu late in the game as opposition big men shuffled hopelessly to try and double-team a dominant Bynum. Meanwhile Kobe danced around the perimeter and made mince meat of defenders who were trying to stay loyal to the inside threat. It looked EXACTLY like a Shaq-Kobe replay from five years ago.

Now, everyone is jumping on the Bynum bandwagon and the ESPN commentators yesterday even suggested he should be at the All-Star game. At first I thought that was the stupidest thing I’ve heard so far this year, but then a few things hit me:

  1. This kid’s game is seriously polished considering how young and raw he is. Bynum’s soft touch around the rim is so impressive it makes me think he was born to play basketball. How can someone so young have already mastered these finishing skills when a veteran centre like Ben Wallace hasn’t figured it out in 10 years? You got a feel for how good Bynum was when Kwame subbed on. Quite simply, Kwame is hopeless. On about three occasions I had to watch him receive the ball in perfect position, usually after a brilliant pass by Kobe/Lamar/Walton only to see him completely f–k up the play by bricking it off the rim (maybe he should stick to the streetball game named in his honour)
  2. Can you name me a better centre in the Western Conference right now NOT named Yao Ming? Amare obviously warrants consideration but I don’t consider him a real centre and defensively Bynum is already better than he’ll ever be. Camby’s defense has been through the roof this season but how many 20-10 games do you see from him? (Answer: none so far this season, compared to Bynum’s four in just his last ten games) Bynum is arguably the in-form centre of the entire league. So far in January he’s averaging 19 points, 13 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, all while shooting a ridiculous 70% from the field. If All-Star selection is about choosing the guys playing at the most elite level, then Bynum surely deserves to be in that conversation.
  3. The Lakers look dead-set dangerous when he’s on the floor. This goes back to the Shaq deja-vu feeling I had. For the last few years a Lakers player getting the ball in the post usually meant either 1) Kobe was on the bench, 2) The play had broken down, 3) Kobe was about to execute a give ‘n go or 4) Kwame had a brain fade and mistakenly thought he knew a post move. Now it’s different. Bynum gets the ball in the post and all of the sudden the opposition is frantic and the Lakers are licking their lips. Most centres are completely mismatched against his size and mobility, while the help defenders have to risk leaving D-Fish, Walton, Kobe, Farmar, Odom open for a three – all of which are dangerous when left open. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s almost making sense for this Lakers team to go through Bynum on every play. No I didn’t mispell Bryant, I meant Bynum. Kobe taking a backseat to the 20 year-old centre he was paying out just a few months ago? I think I just wrote a new “Where Amazing Happens” commercial right there.

Other Friday and Saturday Ramblings…

  • Lebron had a monster game against the Bobcats on Friday, an absolute monster. 31-19-8. That’s only happened nine times over the past 20 years and never before by a small forward. For all the stat junkies out there Barkley has three of them, the others being Dirk, Shaq, Parish, Olajuwon, Duncan and Malone. I feel sorry for the Bobcats though. Losing this double OT heart-breaker, then losing again in OT against the Pistons last night. But nonetheless, this team has commanded some serious respect over the last week thanks to the Boston win. They are staying competitive against the best teams in the league. Michael Jordan must be a happy man (although something tells me he’s fuming about the late offensive goaltending call from the Pistons game – even I have to admit, that call looked dodgy)
  • The Boston Celtics are in a slump. Maybe it was the emotional drop off after the Pistons game – there must have been a massive sigh of relief after that win and you can see it in their recent on-court performances. They lose to the Bobcats, narrowly beat the Nets (after trailing in most of that game), then they go and lose to the Wizards after a fourth-quarter melt down. They’re now 30-5 and still on pace for 70 wins, but remember that the ‘05 Pistons were actually 37-5 so Celtics would do well do match that. I predicted they would have a little slump. I thought it would happen on the West coast road trip, but that was a little premature. I think KG summed it up best – “We spoiled ourselves a little bit”, referring to the Celtics early season success where they got used to winning games by 15-20 points. There is some truth in this. You sometimes forget how to close out a tight game when you’re used to resting your starters in the fourth quarter and coasting to double-digit victories. The Celtics aren’t really battle-hardened in that sense. A few more close games would do them good.
  • Kudos to Chris Bosh for scoring 40 against the Knicks and giving coaches a little more incentive to pick him in the East All-Star squad. We wouldn’t want those promotional videos to go to waste would we?
  • The Miami Heat continue to stink it up and are now a laughable 8-28. I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that the 5-31 Timberwolves are a chance to become officially the worst team of all time by beating out the 1972-73 76′ers who went 9-73, or the fact that the Miami Heat, title-winners only two years ago, are only three games in front of them. If anyone is still seriously clinging to the “Miami might find their stride and sneak into the playoffs” argument, well, you probably have a mental illness.
  • Just quietly, the Denver Nuggets have won 7 of 9 and just quietly, Iverson is shooting over 50% from the field so far in five games this year. That is remarkable. This is Allen Iverson, not exactly a guy know for his efficient shooting and shot selection. He’s finally gelling with this Nuggets team, even if it means I think he’s shooting more than he needs to. But his .464 shooting percentage on the entire season is by far and away the best shooting percentage he’s enjoyed in any season of his illustrious 12-year career. Maybe the Nuggets can win with AI and Melo both sitting in the top 5 points scorers in the league?
  • Rip Hamilton has always been labelled a bit of a one-trick pony, but he’s actually having a stand out season so far. Ok ok I know I’m massively Detroit biased, but hear me out. The dude is scoring a handy 18 points per game, almost 50% from the field and 47% from three-point land (that’s good for top 10 in the league). He’s dishing out a career 4.6 assists per game which is good for 7th among shooting guards in the league and chips in with over a steal per game. He’s having a career year. Most people still think of Rip as the guy who curls around screens all day sinking mid-range jumpshots. While that’s partly true, his game is far more versatile than that. His court-sense is underrated and he consistently makes perfect alley-oop lobs to his team mates – he does this better than Billups. His defense is above-average and he’s part of the reason Ray Allen has struggled so mightily with the Pistons this season. As mentioned he’s a dangerous three point shooter, and he’s also killer in the clutch. Rip’s game doesn’t change over the last few minutes of a close game – you will never see him panic or rush a shot. He’s Mr Reliable as far as I’m concerned, and he proved it again by hitting the game winner against the Bobcats. I guess I’m ranting now, but have a little respect for the man they call Rip and if he does get called up to the Eastern All-Star reserves, think twice before you bag out this “one trick pony”
  • How could an Aussie blogger not mention Andrew Bogut? The man just had a career-high 29 point, 11 rebound performance against the Suns, and despite the loss, its great to see the big Aussie hope carving it up in the pros. I didn’t see this game, but I’m certainly hitting up Pontel for it. I enjoy watching the Bogey man because for a big guy, he makes smart decision, gets his team mates involved, and does all the fundamental things that make him a unique centre in this league. He’s making us Aussies damn proud.
  • What happened to the lead the Orlando Magic had on the rest of the Eastern Conference? They’re only two games in front of “the pack” which includes the Wizards, Raptors, Cavs, Nets, Hawks, Pacers, Bulls, Bucks, 76′ers and Bobcats. And yes I’m aware I just named every Eastern conference team except for the Knicks and Heat. It doesn’t get any easier for the Magic: they face a rising Bulls squad, a rising Bobcats squad, the Trailblazers, and then Detroit twice in five nights. That two game lead could have dissapeared by February
  • The Indiana Pacers. Don’t really have anything to say about their win agains the Kings. But today I watched the game they played against the Suns earlier in the season – it was an awesome game. Amare goes for 40 but for me I had most fun watching JO go crazy. He hit everything, including a three, scored like 35 points and reminded me of the JO we saw back in 03-04 when he was a legit MVP candidate. I miss that JO. He was one of my favourite guys and I thought he was destined for greatness. I thought he was the best of KG and Tim Duncan rolled into one. I would like to know what Pacers fans think of him right now… is he still the cornerstone of this franchise? When commentators are announcing upcoming Pacers games they don’t say “Jermaine O’Neal and the Indiana Pacers are coming to town” anymore. When did that stop happening?
  • Jerry Stackhouse kept the Mavs win streak alive with a nice buzzer beater to beat the Clipps today. Not to bag on the Clipps, but that would have been an embarrasing loss for the Mavs. And isn’t it funny that despite their seeming turbulent opening to the season, Dirk’s shooting struggles and all the 67-win-hangover talk, the Mavs are sitting proud on top of the Western Conference and will probably secure #1 in the NBA/ESPN Power Rankings when they come out tomorrow. I’m liking the pace of the Mavs season so far. They won’t be dealing with 70-win hype and they won’t get anywhere near as much attention as the Suns or Lakers. Although with four very winnable games coming up, you can be sure they’ll get media spotlight if their win streak hits 11 (which I think it will)

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