When Andrew Bynum steps on the court, many people see the man who stole money from the Philadelphia 76ers. Some see a man who pouted his way out of Los Angeles, and some see a kid who has not matured into a man yet. When I see Bynum, I still see the second best center in the NBA.
Talent-wise, he is the real deal on the court. My best memory of Bynum came in his rookie year on Christmas Day playing against Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat. O’Neal came down and dunked on the young center and Bynum took it like a man. The very next play, Bynum got the ball in the post, spun and dunked on O’Neal; we had just witnessed the future.
If Bynum was healthy in 2008, there would be no talk of the Boston Celtics‘ Big Three. Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins destroyed the Los Angeles Lakers in the post without the young center in the middle. The following year, with a healthy Bynum, the Lakers won their first of back-to-back championships. In 2011, Bynum averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per in only 60 games. Injuries have been his calling card throughout his career, only playing a full season once.
If you had a chance for a player of Dwight Howard‘s caliber against Bynum’s health and immaturity problems, what would you do? The Lakers made the trade, sending Bynum to the 76ers and welcoming Howard with open arms. The trade worked out best for no one involved, except the Orlando Magic. Dwight fizzled and crumbled under the lights in Los Angeles, while Bynum never played for the 76ers.
Last season, there were reports every week on the progress, or lack thereof, of Bynum’s health. He was going to play this week, then he was going to play next week. Then Bynum went bowling and his season was lost. The 76ers were forced to cut their loses and let Bynum hit free agency after he took them to the bank, robbed them, and threw a lollipop in their face.
Bynum is in Cleveland now, fighting the critics off about his maturity and his injury problems. Once Bynum gets his knees under him and is able to hit the floor, this team can make a deep playoff run. Anderson Varejao is a good low post presence and a great rebounder, but he is no Bynum down low. Bynum will add a dimension that the Cavaliers have been missing since Brad Daugherty – a center who every night can score at ease and defend with grit and make Kyrie Irving’s job a lot easier. The pieces to contend are aligned; they have the shooters, the slashers and the ball handlers. The only thing missing was the shot blocking of a dominant big man. Now that you have heard the talk about your character, you only have two choices — prove them right or prove them wrong.