The Los Angeles Lakers ended their five game losing streak Tuesday, but the 102-93 victory against the San Antonio Spurs brought more frowns than it did smiles because Andrew Bynum found himself on the ground with his hands clenched around his knee, once again.
When the Lakers were playing poorly before the NBA All-Star game, Bynum received tons of criticism because he wasn’t playing well. After the break, Los Angeles won 17-of-18 games, in which Bynum received most of the credit because he was controlling the paint.
Now, two days before the playoffs start, Bynum hyper-extended his surgically right knee. The extent of the injury or the amount of time he could miss has not been reported, but he will miss the Lakers regular-season finale against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday.
Are Bynum’s knee problems going to be his legacy?
Let’s face it, when he is healthy and on the court, he is revered as the second best center in the league behind the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard. Honestly, if he could stay healthy, Bynum has the potential to be the best center in the league.
However, potential is the key word. Instead of being compared to Howard, he should be compared to the Portland Trail Blazers injury prone Greg Oden.
How is he ever going to play to his potential or close to it if he is never on the court? In his six seasons with the Lakers, Bynum has only played more than 65 games twice. In his second season, 2006-07, he played in 82 games and last season he played in exactly 65. The rest of his career number of games played throughout a season are lackluster to say the least, 46,35,50 and this season’s 54 games.
One of the main reasons the Lakers win, besides Kobe Bryant, are because of their interior length and talent. But, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom can’t do it all. They need Bynum on the court because he is a big body that intimidates every player in the league when they drive to the hoop. If he isn’t out there, the old Laker lineup has to exert all of its energy on both sides of the court in areas where they wouldn’t need to if he was playing.
Maybe, just maybe, Los Angeles should think about moving Bynum. Sure, he is a good player when he is on the court, but NBA general managers and coaches would rather have athletes that can play games, not with trainers and doctors.
Would you want to pay Bynum $13.7 million for what he has done this season. He was fantastic for 40-to-50 of the games he played, but there is no doubt in my mind, I’d look to get rid of him. He is a 23-year old player with 45-year old knees; the odds for him to reach his potential do not look good.
The Lakers won the championship last year with a less than a 100% Bynum, but it is going to be a lot harder to get to the NBA Finals this season. The Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder have rosters that produce match up problems for the Lakers when they do have the 7 foot center. San Antonio has added big bodied Tiago Splitter to its big man roster of Antonio MyDyess, DeJuan Blair and Tim Duncan while the Thunder traded for Kendrick Perkins with the Boston Celtics.
I hope he gets well and can make some kind of impact during the post season, but the Lakers should seriously consider the Bynum phone calls they receive after the season is over. He isn’t worth his contract if his knees can’t handle the NBA.
He is going to go down as another extremely talented player whose skills matured while his legs didn’t.