Bad News in L.A.: The Bynum injury

News came down today that Lakers center Andrew Bynum will miss eight weeks with a subluxation of his left kneecap and bone bruise.

Obviously this is a big blow to a Lakers team that has won six in a row and nine of their last 10 games. At 25-11 overall, the Lakers are within ½ game of Phoenix and Dallas for first place in the Western Conference with a game tonight against Seattle.

Who knows where the Lakers will find themselves in the standings in eight weeks upon Bynum’s return. In the ultra-competitive Western Conference, ninth place Utah is just five games back of first place, which means the Lakers could very easily slide from playoff contention.

Their schedule over the next eight weeks is going to be challenging. Between now and the end of the month they’ll play Phoenix, Denver, San Antonio, Dallas, Cleveland and Detroit. That Detroit game on Jan. 31 is the opening night of a nine-game road trip.

But even more frustrating for Lakers fans than their immediate schedule, is the fact that they’ll miss out on 25-30 games worth of Bynum’s development this season.

The 20-year-old’s development into a capable big man has been one of the brightest spots for a Lakers team that has caught many off guard this year. His work with Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been paying off as Bynum has averaged 13.1 points per game while shooting better than 63 percent from the field. He’s also averaged 10.2 rebounds and 2.06 blocked shots per game while playing 28.8 minutes a night.

Bynum signifies hope for the Lakers’ future, but the early returns they were getting from him this season had Lakers fans wondering about how far this team could go. Expectations will have to be tempered for now.

Without Bynum in the lineup, the Lakers will look for Kwame Brown and Ronny Turiaf to increase their production, but there’s no doubt the team will anxiously await the return of Bynum.

His flashes of brilliance this season have made Lakers fans thankful the team nixed rumors of a trade involving Bynum last season for Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets. Bynum now seems poised to become one of the elite big men in the NBA, but first he’ll have to recover from his first major setback since the waves of success began flowing his way this year.

If the Lakers can stay afloat in the playoff race, and Bynum can return to full strength by April, there’s still a chance that they could make noise in the playoffs.

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