LOS ANGELES -- Andrew Bynum doesn't want to talk about his right knee. His knee isn't just in pain -- it's injured. He needs surgery, but he won't have it until after the NBA Finals. He's playing hurt.
But he won't say how hurt. Ask him for a percentage -- "Are you playing at 80 percent? Sixty percent?" -- and he shoots it down like a flimsy jumper by Kevin Garnett. Get that weak stuff out of here.
"I'm good enough to play," Bynum says. "I don't know the exact number. But I'm good enough."
|Pau Gasol is thrilled to have Andrew Bynum playing, even if he's not 100 percent. (Getty Images)|
That's not a major procedure unless you happen to be a 7-foot, 300-pound center who is three days away from playing in the NBA Finals. And then it's a major procedure.
A doctor removed almost 2½ ounces of fluid from Bynum's knee. Go to your kitchen and get a measuring cup. Fill it with 2½ ounces of water. Slosh it around. Imagine that on your knee. Imagine having that removed from your knee, and then 72 hours later playing against bruising Boston center Kendrick Perkins.
Two games into the NBA Finals, which are tied at 1-1 entering Game 3 in Boston on Tuesday, Bynum has actually outplayed Perkins. Most of the time, that wouldn't be a big deal. Perkins is a role player for Boston, nothing more, a guy who averaged 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds this season. Those are decent numbers, but Bynum's numbers in the 2009-10 regular season were better: 15 ppg, 8.3 rpg. Bynum is better. Most of the time.
But right now Bynum is hurt. And still, he's better. Bynum isn't just out-producing Perkins, either. He's darn near out-producing Perkins and Garnett combined. Through two games, Perkins and Garnett are averaging 21 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 0.5 blocked shots per game. Bynum is at 15.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 3.5 blocks.
Those numbers are almost a wash, especially considering Perkins and Garnett have played 115 minutes in two games. Bynum has played 67.
Bynum won't talk about it, and Lakers star Kobe Bryant doesn't seem all that impressed either -- more on that in a minute -- but Lakers power forward Pau Gasol seems almost stunned by his teammate's production.
"What Andrew is doing throughout this playoffs has been incredible," Gasol said, "to be able to play through his injuries and the soreness."
Berger: Game 3 preview -- what to expect
Game 2 recap: Berger and Doyel in L.A.
|Schedule and Results|
Game 1: Lakers 102, Celtics 89
Game 2: Celtics 103, Lakers 94
Game 4: 9 p.m. ET - Thursday, June 10 (Boston)
Game 5: 8 p.m. ET - Sunday, June 13 (Boston)
Game 6: 9 p.m. ET - Tuesday, June 15 (L.A.)
Game 7: 9 p.m. ET - Thursday, June 17 (L.A.)
Gasol sounds grateful. He probably is. Two years ago Bynum had a dislocated left kneecap and missed the 2008 NBA Finals, also against Boston. Gasol had to play center, and he was manhandled by Perkins and Garnett. This time around, with Bynum plugging that hole, Gasol is free to play power forward -- where he has outclassed Garnett for two straight games.
Now Bynum is injured again, but he's playing through it. Technically, he has a torn meniscus, which is cartilage in the knee. He suffered the injury in the first round of the playoffs against Oklahoma City and after the season he'll have it repaired or removed, depending on the severity. For now, though, he'll play. And he'll play more minutes and at a higher level than Lakers coach Phil Jackson had dared to hope.
Before Game 1, Jackson had said he was hoping for 25 minutes a game from Bynum, with whatever impact he could manage, specifically as a rebounder and a defensive presence. Bynum played 28 minutes in Game 1, then 39 in Game 2. He had 10 points and six rebounds in Game 1, which had Jackson praising his effort, and then put up 21 points, six rebounds and seven blocked shots in Game 2.
Bryant was asked about Bynum's 21 points -- the same amount as Bryant had in Game 2 -- and what kind of lift that scoring gives to the Lakers.
"It has nothing to do with scoring," Bryant said. "Nothing. It's all defensively. We gave them too many easy baskets and blew too many defensive assignments. That's it."
That's especially interesting considering how bluntly Bynum had broken down the Lakers' struggles on offense at the end of Game 2. Minutes before Bryant went to the interview room, Bynum stood in the Lakers' locker room and said his team was stupid and selfish down the stretch, when the Celtics turned a 90-87 deficit into a 103-94 victory.
"We just played stupid," Bynum said. "Just played dumb. Can't beat this team going one-on-one. We have to move the ball, move ourselves."
Goes without saying that Kobe Bryant took seven shots in the final six minutes, often going one-on-one -- as did Ron Artest on one miserably memorable occasion. Was Bynum calling out Bryant? It's possible.
What Bynum ought to be doing is calling out 6-10 sixth man Lamar Odom, who followed a bad Game 1 with a dismal Game 2. The Lakers will need Odom in Game 3 because this will be the shortest recovery time for Bynum in the series. Game 1 followed a layoff of four days since the Western Conference finals. Game 2 came three after that.
Game 3? That's Tuesday, just two days after Game 2. Don't expect a lot out of Bynum in Game 3. A man that big, on an injury like that, needs more than 48 hours for recovery. He needs surgery, is what he needs.
Bynum will have it done in a few weeks. Meantime, he has games to play -- even as the knee gets worse. The fluid is back. The swelling is constant. Bynum would rather not talk about it.
"I can handle it," he said.
We'll see how he handles Game 3.