Bad timing for Bynum, Lakers

. Wednesday, February 4, 2009
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In a time where hyperbole runs rampant in sports, saying Andrew Bynum's MCL tear couldn't have come at a worse time for the Lakers would be inaccurate.

But it's close.

The 21-year-old center was finally earning his wings before Kobe Bryant's shoulder grounded him for 8 to 12 weeks.

Now the Lakers face their toughest stretch of the regular season: an NBA finals re-run Thursday at Boston and a Sunday afternoon tilt in Cleveland where LeBron James' Cavs have yet to lose a game.

Both Boston and Cleveland are even with L.A. in the loss column. Both got there by bullying their opponents. 

Kobe can flex his 61-point muscle all he wants. It's not big enough to hide the gaping hole in the middle of the Lakers' defense. 

With Bynum, Kevin Garnett settles for fall-away 17-foot jump shots. Without him, KG gets lower on the block and hits a turn-around 8-footer or drop steps for a layup. With Bynum, LeBron's drives turn into pull-ups. Without him, they turn into posters with Pau Gasol or Luke Walton in the lower-left corner. 

L.A. will be lucky to split the last two games of their east-coast road trip. They'll be lucky to be even with the Celts and Cavs come April.

And for those of you who think the Lakers can bide their time until Bynum returns in early May, weren't you saying the same thing last year?

Saying that the Lakers title hopes crumbled with Andrew Bynum's knee would be inaccurate. 

But it's close.