Updated: March 22, 2010, 3:25 PM ET

1. Life Without Bynum For The Lakers ... Again

By J.A. Adande

LOS ANGELES -- The reflex in Lakerland, where they've seen and done it all before, is to react to Andrew Bynum's latest injury and eventual return by calling it a rerun.

"We almost had the same kind of situation" last year, Phil Jackson said, alluding to the knee injury that sidelined Bynum from January until just before the start of the playoffs.

The difference is that this time Bynum has been a more vital part of the Lakers than he has in the past. And there's always a chance that this could be a replay of 2008, when Bynum was injured, projected to return for the playoffs and never did. While the Lakers have given a two-week estimate for Bynum to come back from a strained left Achilles tendon, Jackson admitted Sunday night that "we really have nothing definitive about it."

They only know that the tendon didn't rupture.

"We don't know how this therapy's going to come out," Jackson said.

And they don't know what his conditioning level will be after an injury that restricts his initial workouts to jogging in a pool. From there it could take some time to get back to NBA basketball game speed. There are 3½ weeks and 11 games left in the Lakers' regular season.

In 2009-10 Bynum has been more valuable than ever before. He has produced 14 percent of the team's point total this season, second only to Kobe Bryant. Last season, he accounted for only 8 percent of the point total; of course, he appeared in only 50 games before a knee injury kept him off the court from the end of January through the middle of April. Even though he was available for the postseason (unlike the year before), as Jackson said, "I don't think the playoffs happened for him."

Bynum was out of sync, got caught in unfavorable matchups against smaller, quicker teams, and watched Lamar Odom swallow up his minutes and spot in the starting lineup. But it's hard to imagine Bynum vanishing this year, not when he has recorded a career-best 21 double-doubles, is averaging a career-high 30 minutes per game and had posted 40 points and 26 rebounds in the two full games before he strained his left Achilles tendon Friday night against Minnesota. The Lakers have become more accustomed to looking for him. He averages almost 16 points per game in their victories compared to 13 in their losses.

The Lakers' best stretch of the season came with both Bynum and Pau Gasol in the lineup. When Gasol first came back from the hamstring injury that delayed the start of his season, the Lakers rolled off 10 consecutive victories, all but one of them by a double-digit margin. Even if Bynum had his difficulties adjusting to the presence of Gasol and the restructured hierarchy of shots, Lakers' opponents had even more frustration trying to deal with the two of them.

Coach after coach was left shaking his head after absorbing another defeat in Staples Center (since the Lakers played almost all of their games there in the first part of the season), repeating the same stock answer about how difficult it was to contend with the Lakers' length.

Sunday night's game against the Wizards should have counted as a double-digit victory. Pau Gasol had 28 and 12. ("No sense of obligation," Gasol said. "I always try to be productive. Obviously with Andrew being out I had a couple more looks in the post, that's about it.") Lamar Odom grabbed 13 rebounds, Kobe Bryant made 4-of-7 3-pointers and scored 24 points. But thanks to what Jackson called an "awful second half," in which the Wizards outscored the Lakers 59-40, what was once a 28-point lead resulted in a 99-92 victory.

So the Lakers repeated some of their same old phrases about needing to play a complete game, to find a way to finish off opponents, etc. But Derek Fisher addressed what the absence of Bynum could mean down the road.

"I just think that with guys in and out at different times as well as a heavy road schedule for this latter part of the season, in some ways it's impacted our ability to really have good, quality practices and really get better, put that work in that you have to put in," Fisher said. "It's slowed us down somewhat. I think because of our experience, we're most concerned about really being healthy when the postseason starts. We feel like we have some room to push and really get better."

Of course, the Cleveland Cavaliers have tried to incorporate Shaquille O'Neal, lost him to injury, been with and without Mo Williams and Delonte West, traded Zydrunas Ilgauskas and waited for him to clear a 30-day moratorium to re-sign him -- and still maintained the best record in the league. But Fisher is on to something. And he usually is the stethoscope that reveals the sound of this team's heart.

The Lakers have been searching for the last few months, unable to find consistency, a killer instinct or championship stride. It's possible that they'll enter the playoffs with their preferred starting lineup of Bryant, Fisher, Bynum, Gasol and Ron Artest intact for slightly more than half the season. It's possible that Bynum won't get back to the level he was at in November -- and neither will the Lakers.

J.A. Adande is a columnist for ESPN.com.

Dimes past: 28 | March 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 6-7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 12-13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 19-20

2. Ex-Knicks Hill and Jeffries Come Up Big

By Chris Sheridan

NEW YORK -- For the first 12 minutes, Tracy McGrady was back in superstar form. But the rest of the afternoon, McGrady's alumni game against his former team was impacted more by the two players the New York Knicks sent to the Houston Rockets in order to acquire McGrady and his mammoth expiring contract.

Jordan Hill, labeled a "bad rookie" by Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni in a particularly harsh pregame comment, played the final 16:04 and scored 13 of the Rockets' 52 bench points as Houston stayed on the cusp of the Western Conference playoff race by rallying past New York 116-112 on Sunday.

Jared Jeffries played all but five seconds of the fourth quarter, drawing three charges and blocking two shots in the final period as coach Rick Adelman went with his subs for most of the final quarter. Houston, ninth in the West, won for the fifth time in six games and trails eighth-place Portland by 4½ games (and seventh-place San Antonio by five).

Hill claimed to feel no heightened sense of redemption in helping defeat the team that drafted him No. 8 overall last June, but his feelings might have been different if he were aware of what his former coach had said about him 90 minutes before tipoff.

"I don't like to play bad rookies. I like to play good rookies," D'Antoni said, explaining that Hill was not showing enough in practice to warrant playing time ahead of the Knicks' more established frontcourt players. "I do like Jordan. I think he'll be a nice player in the league, but that's as far as it goes."

That comment was relayed afterward to Hill, who was rendered momentarily speechless.

"Didn't hear that, but what can I say? That's him," Hill said. "He's entitled to his own opinion, so if that's the way he feels, that's how he feels. I'm not trying to make a point. I'm just trying to play basketball. I just want to go out there and have fun and play my game."

To read the entire column, click here

3. Daily Dime Live Recap

ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Sunday's games -- all in Daily Dime Live.

4. Three Knicks Score Big In Loss To Rockets

By Elias Sports Bureau

The Rockets survived big games by David Lee (27 points), Toney Douglas (26) and Danilo Gallinari (26) to post a 116-112 win over the Knicks. It was the first time in 24 seasons that Houston won a 48-minute game in which three opposing players scored at least 25 points. The Rockets' last such win was on November 16, 1985 against the Mavericks, who were led by Jay Vincent (29), Sam Perkins (28) and Rolando Blackman (26).

Kevin Durant (16 points) and Russell Westbrook (0 points, 5 assists) were both subpar in the Thunder's 121-101 loss at Indiana. It was the first time in the 142 games that Durant and Westbrook have played together for Oklahoma City that they combined for fewer than 20 points. Their previous combined low was 21 points against the Trail Blazers last April (Durant 13, Westbrook 8).

Coming into Sunday's loss, Durant ranked second in the NBA in scoring this month (30 points per game); Westbrook ranked 29th in scoring (17.9 PPG) and fourth in assists (9.1 per game).

More from Elias


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