It’s hard to believe that Andrew Bynum was once considered one of the best centers in the NBA. Bynum, whose stock was sky high after a couple of championship runs with the Los Angeles Lakers, was then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the deal that brought Dwight Howard to L.A. His career derailed from there. His year in Philly was mostly a waste due to a knee injury that left him glued to the bench for the vast majority of season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers took a gamble on Bynum last offseason, giving him a two-year, $12 million contract. Unfortunately for the Cavs, they bit off more than they could chew. Bynum has always had a reputation as a locker room cancer, but his antics in practices and pre-game walkthroughs (which reportedly included launching full-court shots whenever he got a defensive rebound) led to the Cavs sending him to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng. Chicago later released him to save money.
Bynum’s behavioral issues did not scare off Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers, however. On February 2, Indiana signed him to a $1 million deal for the rest of the season. There has been much speculation that the Pacers signed Bynum to keep him off a competitor’s roster like that of the Miami Heat, but Bird has proclaimed that it was more than just a preemptive signing. He believes that Bynum will bring another big body to battle Miami down in the paint.
Bird’s vision was very much a reality against Boston. Bynum pulled down eight rebounds in his first seven minutes in a Pacers uniform, finishing with eight points and 10 boards on the night.
The great thing about Bynum for the Pacers is that he is a very nice complementary player to Roy Hibbert. While Hibbert clearly earns his pricey contract with his defense, finishing around the rim is not his strong suit, and his shooting percentage suffers as a result. Bynum’s offensive rebounding skills and his shooting prowess near the rim will help the Pacers in short bursts while Hibbert is on the bench.
The signing also gives three quality big men (Hibbert, Bynum, and Ian Mahinmi) that the Pacers can throw at the Heat.
Any skeptic of the Bynum addition should now have a better understanding of why Bird felt he had to pull the trigger. Bird realized that the Bynum conundrum was mostly a low-risk, high-reward situation. If Bynum continues to be a disruptive influence like he was in Philadelphia and Cleveland, Indiana could cut its losses by releasing him.
At the same time, if Bynum realizes even a small amount of the potential he showed in Los Angeles, the Pacers will be better in the long run.