By now you’ve certainly been reminded plenty of times that Lakers center Andrew Bynum did not play in the 2008 Finals matchup between the Lakers and Celtics. Many have correctly pointed out that his presence could be a big difference in this rematch. I, for one, don’t think Bynum was necessary to win that NBA Finals matchup (Trevor Ariza’s injury was much bigger), but do agree that Bynum’s presence could be a major difference maker. This is why Andrew Bynum’s knee could end up a major decider in who wins the NBA Finals.
Bynum’s mobility is key for a few reasons. The first is by far the most obvious – the more mobile he is, the better he’ll play. Bynum has proven that at his best, he can be a franchise quality center. He’s never consistently been that. Some of this is due to his constant knee injuries and part of it seems to be due to a lack of real effort. That said, the more mobile he is, the better off his play is.
His mobility is equally important for the exact opposite reason. If he can’t move well enough, he’s not worth playing. The Lakers saving grace in the 1st round matchup against the up and coming Oklahoma City Thunder was their length. Bynum and Gasol (plus Odom off the bench) create the type of length (that can also spread the court) that gives defenses fits. If Bynum can’t play, this huge advantage is lessened and the Lakers need to find a new advantage.
This leads us to the third key reason. Kendrick Perkins is one technical away from a one game suspension. These two teams are evenly matched enough where one game could decide the whole difference. If Perkins does get that one technical (and at this point would you not bet that he does?) and Bynum is playing, the Celtics will certainly lose. Why? Because Big Baby can’t defend Bynum or Gasol. He’s also not going to be able to defend Lamar Odom. It creates an impossible matchup for the Celtics.
We’ll have a good chance to see how Bynum’s knee looks right away on Thursday. If he looks decent and can move around, it’ll be a major advantage for the Lakers. If not, the Celtics will have one less thing to worry about in a series that will be defined by a few key matchups.