After being embarrassed by the Denver Nuggets tonight in Game 6 of their first round NBA playoff series, with the Nuggets winning the last two games to tie the series at 3 all, Laker center Andrew Bynum was asked in the locker room why the Lakers - with the notable exception of Kobe Bryant who scored 31 points despite suffering from the stomach flu that required two IV's before the game - did not come out with the intensity that the Nuggets did.
Bynum said "We'll have to figure that out."
What Bynum should have said was: "That's on me. I didn't come out with the intensity that I should have. And it's on me. I'm not going to make that mistake again. I guarantee it. We are going to win game 7 in LA and I'm going to make sure of it."
Yes, Nuggets coach George Karl is a coaching genius and yes, Karl came out with a game plan that his players implemented perfectly to immediately double-team Bynum as soon as Bynum touched the ball in the post, neutralizing Bynum, but if Bynum had played like the game mattered then he could have overcome Denver's defense.
You don't lose games like the Lakers with their talent level unless you are being out hustled. And while Mike Brown is not the equal of George Karl as a coach, the Lakers should still win ... if Bynum does some growing up between now and Saturday's Game 7.
That's a big if because Bynum has not yet shown that he has matured enough to shoulder the responsibility that his talent and size provide him.
Teams (and societies) don't rise to the occasion and triumph over adversity and prove themselves to be champions unless their leaders step up and put the team on their shoulders. Kobe does this but you don't win NBA championships without a one-two punch (as Shaq put it the other day). Bynum is the guy who has to step up.
(As for Pau Gasol, I don't know what's happened to him. He seems to have given up trying to take the ball to the hoop and settles all too often for an outside jumper which he doesn't even make often enough.)