When one talks about the Los Angeles Lakers teams in the 2010s, Kobe Bryant immediately comes to mind. The man is the heart and soul of that Purple and Gold squad. But since basketball is a team sport, it’s a must to look at the other pieces of the puzzle. Former Hornets' coach Monty Williams saw firsthand that it wasn’t Bryant who necessarily beat them in their 2011 Playoff series. It was Andrew Bynum.
Kobe Bryant who?
Williams, then coach of the New Orleans Hornets, faced the two-time defending champions in the first round. They were able to snag two games before bowing out in Game 6. In the post-game interview, Williams heaped praise on the big man, noting that his performance was key in the Lakers’ win.
"Every time he got an offensive rebound, it was deflating. You don't really realize how good he is until you face him in a series. Kobe's Kobe, but I thought Bynum decided the series. He was that good,” Williams said, per ESPN.
It’s a surprising comment, especially given that the Lakers had Kobe — literally one of the greatest of the sport. But it shows how deep the Lakers roster was during this time. As he said, Kobe did his thing. But Bynum, as well as the other role players, are the unsung heroes of the Lakers’ reign.
Stats reveal that Bynum averaged 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds in the series against the Hornets. He snagged 6.3 defensive rebounds and 4.0 offensive rebounds. Game 6 was his best offensive rebounding night, as he snagged a total of eight.
Legendary head coach Phil Jackson echoed Williams’ observation. Kobe wasn’t the only one who did the damage. The entire roster makeup of the Lakers, particularly their size, paved the way for the series win.
"The size and depth of our team wore them down in the end," Jackson said. "It took us a little time to figure out this team."
Andrew Bynum could’ve been greater
Though the Dallas Mavericks swept the Lakers in the following round, it was a pretty good postseason performance for Bynum. He averaged 14.4 points in the entire playoffs on 54.3 percent shooting from the field.
The following postseason, Bynum boosted his average to a career-high 16.7 points and 11.1 rebounds. Sadly, the 2012 NBA Playoffs were Bynum’s last trip to the postseason.
Injuries hounded the big man. It was heavily expected that the Purple and Gold would make him their centerpiece. But in a wild turn of events, the Lakers entered a four-team trade that got them Dwight Howard, while Bynum ended with the Philadelphia 76ers — a team he would never play for as injuries started to pile up.