By Dave McMenamin, NBA.com
Posted Oct 25 2008 4:19PM
NBA.com Senior Writer Dave McMenamin recently spent a day with the Lakers' budding star, big man Andrew Bynum, who missed most of last season with a knee injury.
Bynum is looking to pick up where he left off last year and in his question-and-answer session, he addresses his health, playing with new frontcourt partner Pau Gasol and his goals for the 2008-09 sason.
Question: What does it mean to be the starting center on the Lakers?
ANDREW BYNUM: "It means a lot to me. It's always been a dream of mine to be a Laker. It's also been a dream to be one of the great centers mentioned. I just have a real great opportunity to go out and try to make it possible. I go out, I work hard every day, I do all sorts of workouts and things like that to prepare me for that. Basically man, it means the world to me to be the starting center for the Lakers. That's something I wanted to do and I just can't wait to go out there and kind of fulfill my duty."
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Q: With all you've accomplished already, is it hard to believe that you're only 20-years old?
AB: "It actually doesn't phase me because we've been fortunate enough to have a young team, so everybody around me is my age and we all do the same things."
Q: How hard was it to watch the playoffs from the sidelines last year?
AB: "It was terrible, man. No. 1, you always want to be out there and be able to help your teammates and to not be able to do that is terrible, especially when you see ways that you can help them, which is on the defensive end and kind of being a big presence out there, being able to alter shots and just make people think twice about waltzing in for easy attempts which is something that I think my biggest value is to the team. So, to not be able to go out and help when you see someone struggling is especially hard."
Q: Are you looking forward to showing what the Lakers can do with you in the lineup against Boston?
AB: "I got to redeem myself against them too because we did play two regular season games in which I think I played my two worst games in. There's no excuses about that. I'm looking forward to playing the Celtics, man."
Q: In the month before you got injured, you were playing the best basketball of your career. Did something click?
AB: "I was just beginning to feel comfortable out there and once you get that feeling that you're unstoppable, it automatically propels your game to the next level just because you have that confidence. A lot of people call that athletic arrogance, or whatever, but once you have that, it's just there. It boosts you. But now you have to go get that back and I think that's going to be the hardest part of coming back off of an injury."
Q: You were one pick away from being on the board for the Magic in 2005. Ever think about that?
AB: "I knew I was going to be a Laker because I came out and worked out a couple times and they actually guaranteed it, so it wasn't as much of a surprise to me as most people would believe. But, it would have been great to go to Orlando to play four-five with Dwight. That would be pretty amazing. But, I don't know man, I don't regret anything. I like my situation."
Q: How will you and Pau Gasol mesh on the court?
AB: "One, the fact that we both can pass, that's going to be something that's big. Two, because now they got to double team Kobe and they might double team Pau or have one and a half guys on him, or somebody always looking, and for the most part that will be my guy so it will be easier for me to move around on the offensive end -- sneak in, duck in, do things of that nature. On the defensive side of things, we're super long, we're super athletic, we shouldn't get outrebounded by anybody and we should be able to alter a lot of shots."
Q: How are you health-wise?
AB: "I'm almost all the way back. I don't mean that in the knee sense of things, I just mean that in being able to run five-on-five. I haven't been able to do that for seven months, so of course I might be a little rusty and have to refresh my memory on the triangle executions and things of that nature but I'm looking forward to it. It should be fun. Basically, I think that my game, as far as inside goes, hasn't waned. It's as strong as ever."
Q: What do you want to achieve this year?
AB: My personal goals are to be able to hold the middle down, step my blocks up a little bit more -- I averaged two last year and I'm going to try to get it up to two and a half and be top five in that category in the NBA -- and also rebounding the basketball, I also want to be top five. I think those are two big assets for our team. As far as scoring goes, I think that will handle itself. We've never had an issue scoring the basketball as a team. It should be easier with Pau and Lamar and Kobe and everybody. Everybody is tall, everybody can pass the ball, we should not struggle at all on offense. I think this year's focus for the Lakers should definitely be on the defensive side of the coin just so we'll be able to hold people down.
Q: I have to ask this. How did you react to the Kobe Bryant cell phone video where he says the Lakers should have traded you for Jason Kidd?
AB: "I didn't even know about it until I got back because I was actually in Atlanta training at the time. It's not like L.A. there, it's way different as far as news and entertainment and stuff like that goes. So when I got back and when I was hearing that I was just like, "Well, I can't wait to show how much better I've gotten and how much work I've put in." Lo and behold, I'm trying to work hard again this summer and come back with a couple of surprises for everyone."
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