“Close-out games are actually kind of easy.”
Those are some of the last nonchalant words uttered by Andrew Bynum wearing a Lakers uniform. He made this telling statement to ESPN Los Angeles just after a game four victory against the Denver Nuggets in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs. The Lakers would end up winning that series four to three. As it turns out, the Nuggets disproved Bynum’s theory. This has always been the case with Bynum: making bold assumptions that certain tasks in the NBA can be done with the slightest of ease. That is the mentality that has made him the NBA’s resident vagabond, especially over the last two years. Bynum’s latest pit-stop comes by way of Indiana, and he must focus if he ever hopes to reverse his reputation and prove that his recent signing to the Pacers will pay off for the team.
Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons
Before all of his shenanigans became full-blown, Bynum was a young center for the LA Lakers who showed huge potential. Drafting him out of high school meant that he would be a work-in-progress, but that work would pay off when he became instrumental in aiding the Lakers to two straight titles in 2009 and 2010. Later on in the 2011-12 season he would be named to the Western Conference All-Star team as a starter (rightfully so with a 18.7 ppg and 11.8 rpg), thus solidifying himself as a legitimate presence in the middle and quite possibly a cornerstone piece for the future of the purple n’ gold. Then injuries kicked in, muddying his career.
After his breakout year, he was then traded as part of a massive, four-team trade that took him to Philadelphia with the lofty expectations of turning Philly into a contender in the East. But after aggravating latent injuries in both knees (in the most careless of ways, one of which includes bowling)—well, to quote a sample that was used by Kanye West, “there ain’t no love in the heart of the city.” That marked the end for him in Philly.
His next suitor were the Cleveland Cavaliers and their emerging superstar, Kyrie Irving, plus a plethora of lottery picks that management assumed Bynum would help gel together. Instead, he himself turned out to be the weak link. It should be noted that he tried to acclimate himself into their rotation gradually by averaging 8.4ppg and 7.7 rpg, but nonetheless was a distraction to an already-plagued organization. Bynum was suspended by the team and was asked not to participate in any team activities. In other words, the pink slip was in the mail.
Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons
Concluding Bynum’s dotted history, he would then get traded to Chicago, only to get released by them 24 hours later. Many teams had their eyes on him, including Miami who were only willing however to sign him under the veteran’s minimum, which prompted him to join their rivals, the Indiana Pacers.
So what does this mean for Indy? They’re already a dominant team. They already have the best defensive center in the league in Roy Hibbert and a solid backup in Ian Mahinmi. The team already looks like they can give Miami a run for their money, so why take the risk on Bynum? According to a report from USA Today, team president Larry Bird has said that the team has “got protection” in the case of Hibbert and Mahinmi.
The deal is reportedly worth $1 million for the rest of the season, and in hindsight it seems like a low-risk, high-reward move. However, someone with Bynum’s track record in terms of team chemistry is a just cause for concern, especially for the teammates back in the locker room. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, Pacers’ superstar Paul George said, “You can’t pass up on a huge talent like that, and I expect him to be able to help us if he comes in with an attitude to buy into our program.”
Photo: Crave Online Canada
Not a good start for their newest acquisition in their quest for a title, but can you blame them? This is a road that Bynum has paved for himself. This is an individual who refused any further help improving his post-game from arguably the greatest center of all time, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. It has even come to the point where many anonymous execs have reportedly stated that he doesn’t care to play the game of basketball.
Bynum now has the opportunity to dispel all of that. No one is expecting him to come out like gangbusters. In fact, Head Coach Frank Vogel will most likely take a page out of Erik Spoelstra’s handbook and rest him heavy throughout the season, then deploy him come playoffs. He will not be called upon to be the rising dominant force he was once was in tinsel town, but more so a possible wild card that could be turned into a trump—providing that he’s serious about bringing his championship experience to a team that is poised to hoist up the Larry O’Bren trophy.
In this trade, Bynum has the chance to potentially pave a road to redemption. But if he wavers even just a bit, he may just as easily turn the Indiana Pacers onto the road to regret.