With an 8-2 start, there isn't much for the Los Angeles Lakers to really complain about. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that their defense could use an infusion of Andrew Bynum. In a little over a week, they just might get it, as the 23-year old center telling reporters that a Thanksgiving return "sounds about right."
The Lakers don't play on Thanksgiving Day, but they do play on Friday, November 26, at the Utah Jazz. If that were Bynum's first game back, it would put his total games missed at 15 to start the season. The return of Bynum is needed, as the Lakers' front line is thin without him. Pau Gasol is playing nearly 39 minutes per night, and Lamar Odom is battling a bone bruise in his right foot. Backup big man Theo Ratliff will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, which means rookie Derrick Caracter could see more minutes, and Phil Jackson is no fan of playing rookies.
Bynum coming back would ease the load off the front line, even if he's only playing 15-20 minutes a night when he comes back. The last two losses have exposed some flaws in the interior defense, as captured by the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll. Dexter Fishmore pointed out last week that, in the loss in Denver, the Lakers allowed the Nuggets to take 33 shots, and make 23 shots from point-blank range, both well above the league average. As for the Suns making a whopping 22 of 40 three-pointers on Sunday night, Fishmore pointed out, "with Drew there to protect the rim, guys can stick to their perimeter assignments more closely."
Last year, the Lakers ranked fourth in the NBA in defensive rating, giving up 103.3 points per 100 possessions. So far this season, the Lakers have dropped to 15th, allowing 107.5 points per 100 possessions. Getting Bynum back is definitely something to be thankful for.
For more Lakers news and analysis, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Silver Screen and Roll.