Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson revealed on Sunday night that he is considering sitting center Andrew Bynum for Game 4 to rest his ailing right knee.
The Lakers have a 2-1 edge in the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns and Game 5 is on Thursday in Los Angeles so that would give Bynum three full days of not putting any weight on his right knee, which has a torn meniscus.
Bynum told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com that he prefers to play because he’s not doing more damage to the knee. But Jackson is more concerned about how Bynum’s injury is impacting the Lakers, especially on the defensive end.
“I’ll talk to him and see what his suggestion is and how he feels about it, ” Jackson said of Bynum, who had two points, two rebounds and four personal fouls in a little over seven minutes in Game 3, won by the Suns 118-109.
“I think that he was ineffective tonight. There’s some things that got by him. He had one nice move in the post. Defensively, I thought he was a little bit late.”
Amare Stoudemire punished the Lakers defense with a series-high 42 points, aided by 14 free throws on 18 attempts. But Stoudemire scoring 40 points is not that surprising. What was surprising was that Robin Lopez made eight of 10 shots from the field and scored 20 points. If Bynum were healthy, Lopez wouldn’t have 20 points. Heck, he may not even have more than six.
Bynum doesn’t need to score to have an impact in the game. They have Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol for that. What Bynum brings to the floor is size and length on defense, which discourage players, such as Stoudemire, from driving to the basket. With Bynum and Gasol in the backline, the Lakers possess two 7-footers with extremely long wingspans and perimeter defenders such as Ron Artest can apply more pressure on the opposition and not worry about getting beat to the basket.
“Obviously, he’s been a key player all year. He can bring a lot to the table defensively and offensively,” Gasol said of his teammate. “He’s a big presence for us. We don’t know how much that knee is a factor. Of course, I would like for him to play more, and provide more, and help us.”
The Lakers are good enough to advance past the Suns without Bynum, but they will need him in the NBA Finals. And that’s the big picture Jackson and the Lakers are looking at.