Suns 106, Lakers 114

On November 1, 2006, in General, by Neil Stevens

Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom powered the Kobe-less Lakers to a win last night over the Suns, coming back from a 19 point first quarter deficit to win solidly in their season opener. The Lakers have seen this before, but it had to feel good for Kobe to watch as his team ended their three game losing streak against Phoenix.

What do I mean by being there before? Take a look at these highlight performances from the Lakers’ three post-Shaq opening nights:

  • October 31, 2006, Andrew Bynum: 18 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists in 24 minutes
  • November 2, 2005, Smush Parker: 20 points on 8-12 shooting (3-7 behind the arc), 6 assists, 4 rebounds
  • November 2, 2004, Chris Mihm: 23 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks

Neither Parker nor Mihm lived up to the expectations set in the hearts of Lakers’ fans after those first LA starts. The hope is that Bynum will be different, though. At 19 years and four days of age for his first NBA start, the tenth pick of the 2005 draft is quietly expected to come next in the list of Lakers championship centers that began with Mikan, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, and O’Neal. Having Abdul-Jabbar as a special assistant coach for him only goes to heighten the senses of continuity and tradition, just as the old Celtics starters would train their successors in the winning way.

Those hopes have to have become more urgent among Lakers executives, too, as the market of potential free agents thins and thins. The Lakers have been due to have plenty of cap room to sign somebody to a maximum contract once Brian Grant’s old contract expires. However with players like LeBron James, Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire, and Dwyane Wade extending with their current teams, it’s not looking like the Lakers will be able to find Kobe’s partner in championships on the open market.

So if Kobe Bryant and the rest of Dr. Jerry Buss’s Lakers are to return to holding championship parades anytime soon, it will be up to Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum to get them there. So what about Odom? When the Clippers drafted him, the talk of LA was that he was to be the next Magic, combining size with ball-handling to be an unstoppable force in the league.

The combination of the Clippers’ having no will to win, the too-high expectations set on the young player, and some early drug problems killed that hype quickly, though. Then, out of the spotlight, he crept up on the league with the apparently easy to play with Dwyane Wade, taking his team to an improbable Eastern Conference Semifinal run in 2004.

With the Lakers, though, the results have been disappointing. Of course 2004-2005 was a terrible year for the team all around. Rudy Tomjanovich replaced Phil Jackson with a plan to be a fast-paced, dangerous underdog. His sudden retirement, though, and replacement by interim coach and triangle offense disciple Frank Hamblen left a team with no defensive mindset and a lot to learn in its new offensive scheme. That offensive shift hurt Lamar Odom the most, since he was expected to produce in a unique-in-the-NBA system sprung on him overnight.

Late in the 2005-2006 season Odom started to come around, though. His scoring average for the last two months of the season was four points per game higher than the November-February total, and he brought that up two points higher to 19 per game in the playoffs against Phoenix. Kobe’s scoring binges covered for Lamar as he learned the triangle, but now he needs to step up and into the system on his own.

Is there hope? After tonight, I would say yes. The team showed toughness last night in clawing back against the league MVP Steve Nash and his sidekicks Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire, doing it without the aid of the league’s scoring champion at their side. That’s a good start, and has to be worth something.


Comments are closed.

Nima Jooyandeh facts.