I've always felt this odd connection to Andrew Bynum, as many of you may feel to any superstar who is the same age as you. Both Bynum and I are 24 years old. So now that I'm an adult, it's so hard for me to understand why Bynum is acting like he is.
Granted, I'm not a professional basketball player, nor do I claim to be anything close to one, but it's an age and maturity thing. I can understand this kind of behavior from a 21-year-old Bynum who's finally coming into his own, but that's not the case this year.
Bynum is finally healthy for a whole year, he's an All-Star and having his best season ever. On average he's scoring more points, grabbing more rebounds and tossing up more assists than ever before. He's one of the top shooters in the NBA and frequently compared to Dwight Howard as the best center in the league. Even Shaq is vying for the guy. So why is he acting out?
Part of it may be a lack of guidance from his main mentor on the team: Kobe Bryant. Everyone knows that Bryant is one of the cockiest players (rightfully so) and plays with an essential chip on his shoulder. So could it be that Kobe is trying to teach that to Bynum?
In an interview earlier this year, Robert Horry, former Laker said of the Kobe/Shaq feud to sports.ru (h/t PFT):
I think Phil Jackson started that feud. It happened many times that after team practice he would say, "Kobe said this about Shaq, and Shaq said that about Kobe..." We couldn't believe how could that happen, because just the day before we saw them together, jumping on one another. Phil liked it when there was conflict of some sort.
Remember in 2008 when Kobe left the court before the game was over? Phil Jackson said (via the Los Angeles Times):
I thought his mood was uplifting. I guess that's the best [word]. I think he sensed the fact that he had to be the one that brings them back in this situation, that says, "Hey, we're going to take this thing on back to Boston. We're just going to keep standing and keep playing."
So is it possible that in Phil's absence, Kobe is trying to fill the Zen master's shoes and do what needs to be done to intensify his teammates? Is it possible that Jackson was a lot less peaceful than everyone believes him to be? Obviously he's a killer in some sense if he was able to win as many chips as he did.
Kobe likes Bynum's rebellious streak; he has said that he sees a little bit of his younger self in Bynum. Maybe this is because it reminds Kobe of a young version of himself, when he and Shaq were one of the greatest 1-2 punches the NBA has ever seen. Could it be that the one veteran on the team who can mentor Bynum is actually egging him on to be more aggressive in his behavior and play?
It's a matter of Andrew learning to be fierce and belligerent in the right ways. Remember when Kobe was intruding on a conversation Fisher was having with an OKC teammate, his first game back to Los Angeles? I'm sure Kobe was happy to see Pau's aggressive side in his shoving match with Kris Humphries, even if it led to Pau receiving a technical foul.You couldn't tell what was being said, but it was obvious Fisher was not happy.
If Bynum is going to continue to be aggressive in all aspects of his nature, he needs to learn how to keep it under control. He also needs to learn when it's okay to say something (remember, his ejections were the results of words, not actions).
Bynum's got the aggressiveness down, and never runs from a fight, but the fact remains that he needs to learn to channel these feelings. Kobe has always played with strong emotions, but he's learned to do it in a way that doesn't harm him or the team. This is what Bynum needs to learn to do, because continuing to get ejected helps no one but the opposition.