The quality of a successful duo could range from catastrophic to insurmountable, especially in the world of professional basketball.
From Bob Cousy/Bill Russell to Magic Johnson/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen to Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone/John Stockton and even Tim Duncan/David Robinson (Twin Towers), there was consistent, inseparable success. Although the off-court controversies eventually buried the relationship between Shaq and Kobe, the pair at least had something (or three championship rings) to fall back on. Just like the Los Angeles Lakers’ tall task duo inand Pau Gasol, which has played well together but could be split for a future gamble in the form of All-Star Dwight Howard.
A gamble worth risking is a mistake worth accepting or a success worth taking credit for. But the 13-9 Lakers are doing what they need to do this season, and that’s win games. Sure, they’re a shell of themselves offensively, but the Twin Towers of Staples Center combine for 32 points per game, 21 rebounds per game and just over three blocks per contest while shooting over 50 percent each from the free throw line. Last time I checked, might makes right, and most organizations not only would take the duo over Howard, but should do so.
Don’t get me wrong; Howard is the best center in the league today, dominating the boards and excelling defensively with pure athleticism, all while overwhelming defenders for 20 points per game, but he can’t be dependable at the charity strike like Bynum and Gasol, shooting 47 percent there to Bynum’s 58 (that’s low as well, but 11 percentage points better than Howard’s putrid stat) and Gasol’s 78. Howard would mean more tickets and symbolizes what the Lakers’ star-studded approach reaches for. The Buss family normally craves the fame and will do whatever it takes to outshine the competition at all costs.
“Lob City” across the hall has drawn more raves and the Lakers’ little brother, the Los Angeles Clippers, are winning with studs, , and Caron Butler. It infuriated Laker nation to see Paul go to the counterpart after being denied (and screwed) from acquiring Paul in a three-team deal with the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Hornets. So why not go after Howard and risk a current collapse for a future meteoric rise into a new (or another) franchise era?
But successful team sports are all about cohesion, and to disrupt the foundation that is Bynum and Gasol for Bryant, who is all for Bynum and Gasol being alongside him as a purple and gold “Big Three,” can go wrong in so many ways. The roster is gutted for one man. The chemistry is set back because of one man. And the playoffs could be missed for one man.
Bynum is a throwback to the traditional centers of the league. His lumbering presence in the paint reminds some of O’Neal’s days as a Laker, but can never be a replica of such. In a league where centers are smaller but faster, an inside-out game is almost mandatory and that’s what Gasol does for Bynum. Gasol can hit the outside shot, has done his time at center to play inside and has proven this season that he can hit 3-pointers (how Phil Jackson didn’t exploit this is beyond me). Together, opponents are forced to play the outside shot and sometimes do their best to fight fire with fire, but the length can throw off many game plans. Individually, these players are human, but as a unit, Gasol and Bynum make for headaches for any coach to prepare for.
With that in mind, this pair shouldn’t be traded for any one talent, no matter how LeBron-esque or Howard-ish he could be. The Lakers may be championship material based on how far Bryant takes them, but Gasol and Bynum keeps that material on the bulletin board, so to speak. As long as they stand tall together, this team can stand tall amongst the Western Conference’s best.