As the Lakers head home to L.A. for Game 5, one question has to be weighing on ther collective minds: What do we do with Andrew Bynum?
Clearly, he's not in any way healthy or confident in his knee, whether Yao Ming is on the floor in this series or not. On Sunday, there was no Yao, only 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes guarding the paint. And Bynum fumbled away entry passes, got his feet crossed up, didn't get deep enough position, and was a complete non-factor in a game that the Lakers mailed in.
To me, the Bynum situation is more troublesome than the Lakers not showing up Sunday. They'll show up for the rest of the series, but Bynum simply may not be healthy enough to do so.
And remember, he was supposed to be the missing link, the element that was missing in the Finals against the Celtics last year. His post scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking were supposed to ensure that the Lakers wouldn't cower again in the face of physical challenges from the Celtics or Cavs.
This is a big problem for the Lakers. Not necessarily against the Yao-less Rockets, but against teams that play physical around the basket. Cleveland and Boston certainly qualify. Orlando does, when Dwight Howard feels like it. I'd even put Denver in that category with Kenyon Martin and Birdman Andersen.
After Phil Jackson got finished cursing Sunday, I asked him for his assessment of Bynum's play.
"It looks like it takes him some time to get himself involved in the ballgame," Jackson said. "His hands weren’t good when he came in. He had the fumble and things like that. I started him a little earlier in the second half just to use size to stop their drives and get some rebounds. So we went to him early in the second half."
When I asked him if there might come a time to consider giving Bynum's minutes to someone who might be more effective -- DJ Mbenga, for example -- Jackson said, "Obviously without Yao in the lineup, we would consider that. We have to consider that, but it’s not our major concern."
It should be. Bynum looks like he doesn't belong on the court. Against Houston without Yao, that's OK. But not after that.