"Close out games are actually kind of easy," Andrew Bynum told reporters this week. "Teams tend to fold if you come out and play hard in the beginning."
That’s the quote that supposedly rocked the basketball world to its very core yesterday. That amazing, ultra-powerful statement apparently inspired a team that would have been out of the playoffs had it lost Wednesday night’s Game 5, to ultimately pull out a 102-99 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles. That quote is why we should all kill Bynum today.
Of course, none of that is true – but it’s a fun storyline to play up when you have nothing to discuss between Phil Jackson-to-the-Knicks rumors and LeBron James-isn’t-clutch rants.
Here is what Marc J. Speaks of Yahoo! Sports wrote following Tuesday night’s game:
George Karl’s first order of business when he walked into the Denver Nuggets' locker room Tuesday was to find video coordinator Nate Anderson.
“You put that quote at the end of the film?” the Nuggets coach asked Anderson.
Yes, Anderson had done his work, attaching the inflammatory words of Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum at the end of the Nuggets' pregame film.
That was all the motivation the Nuggets needed.
Spears even cited Ty Lawson’s postgame comments as justification for the ridiculous claim that Bynum had somehow propelled Denver to victory:
"A lot of players are arrogant, man," Nuggets guard Ty Lawson said. "That was an arrogant statement. That definitely did give us fuel and motivation to win this game. We don’t like people saying stuff about us. We all looked at each and other and were like, 'All right, let's go.'"
If that’s even partially true then the Nuggets are dumbest, weakest team in the history of professional basketball. THEY WERE DOWN 3-1 WITH THEIR SEASON ON THE LINE HEADING INTO GAME 5. It’s mind-boggling that with your year hanging in the balance, you would need a mildly cocky (but mostly accurate) remark from a guy renowned for his immaturity to fire you up. That’s like saying that if someone was trying to kill you, you’d let it slide and let them do it – unless they talked about your shoes beforehand.
Beyond the obvious problems with the fact that Denver needed Bynum to offer a general dismissal of losing teams in closeout games to evoke a sense of urgency, it’s also worth mentioning that Game 5 went pretty much exactly like the three games before it. The Nuggets either pushed L.A. to the limit or beat them in each of the last three games they played; were throwaway Bynum quotes to blame for those as well?
It’s amazing that the day after he scored 16 points (six of eight from the field) and put up 11 rebounds, Bynum is the guy who is getting blamed for his team’s ineptitude. If you want to criticize him for getting outplayed by JaVale McGee (21 points, 14 rebounds) then so be it, but at least also point out that Bynum got virtually no touches on Tuesday night. Eight shots when he has that sort of advantage over everyone on the Nuggets roster. Really?
For comparison’s sake – Kobe Bryant scored 43 points on 32 shots.
If Bynum had gotten his fair share of touches, he could have neutralized McGee's offensive production with ease. So yes, he does deserve some heat for his lackluster defensive showing against a guy that really has no business working him like he did, but Bynum could've made up for it on the other end given the opportunity.
Again: Andrew Bynum’s comments were not the reason for the Lakers’ dismal performance yesterday, nor their equally unimpressive showings in Games 2-4.
But ESPN needs something to talk about, so ultimately that’s what you’ll hear for most of today.