4 Big Reasons the Los Angeles Lakers Shouldn't Coddle Andrew Bynum
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Question: Is Andrew Bynum one of the top two centers in the NBA?
Q: Should the Lakers be concerned with keeping Bynum in purple and gold and going all out next summer to sign him to an extension, thus committing to build their franchise around the 24-year-old 7-footer?
A; Absolutely not.
After seven years of coddling, nurturing, supporting and appeasing him, the Lakers find themselves in the awkward position of now shopping Bynum in an effort to bring Dwight Howard to Los Angeles.
Andrew Bynum has worn out his welcome mat. While there's no questioning his ever-increasing offensive and defensive skill set, and his being named the starting center for the Western Conference in the last All-Star Game, the fact remains that Bynum and the Lakers are not a great fit.
There's a big reason Mitch Kupchak continues to pursue D12. The main reason is that Howard, when healthy, is the premier big man in the game and the Lakers have a rich tradition of having the game's top centers play for them.
Pursuing Howard so heavily also tells us something more about Bynum and his future in Los Angeles. While there are reasons to love the way he CAN play and the potential he still brings to the table, it is most important now to not coddle Andrew Bynum anymore.
Consider the following:
1. Andrew Bynum Lacks Consistent Play and Passion
Despite coaching from Kobe Bryant and Mike Brown, Bynum is not always engaged
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Andrew Bynum has stretches of great play, even brilliance.
There was the game at San Antonio on April 12 where Bynum grabbed 30 rebounds and totally dominated the glass in a convincing 98-84 thrashing of the Spurs.
In the history of the franchise, only George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had ever recorded 30 or more rebounds for a Lakers team.
Bynum made his first All-Star appearance in 2012 and his numbers for the year were indicative of a breakout season. He averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds, shot 56 percent from the field and had two blocks per game for the Lakers.
So why did Bynum often snarl at reporters, sit by himself away from team huddles and take ill-advised three point shots? And where was his commitment and intensity in the playoffs when the Lakers needed him to really step up on both ends of the court?
Bynum's average in 12 playoff games dipped to 16.7 and more importantly, his shooting percentage dipped just below 48 percent.
It seems as if Bynum just does enough to get you excited and then disappears for minutes or even games at a time.
It makes you wonder just how committed he really is to being a Laker or to the game itself.
2. Team Chemistry and Leadership Seem Foreign to Andrew Bynum
Mike Brown and Andrew Bynum did not always see eye to eye
Harry How/Getty Images
Chemistry and leadership are crucial to any successful sports team, especially in basketball where there are just five players performing in close quarters.
Though he's still young, Bynum has been in the league seven years and was being groomed to become the centerpiece of the franchise when Kobe Bryant hangs up his sneakers.
But actions speak louder than words, and Bynum just doesn't seem to possess the leadership qualities that you find in all the iconic sports figures.
Bynum's often offbeat actions during the season didn't help his cause.
Mike Brown benched him in the fourth quarter of the team's 104-101 victory at Golden State in late March after the big center attempted an ill-advised three point shot. A sulking Bynum told reporters after the game that he would shoot more threes in the future, despite his own coach's feelings to the contrary.
Brown told the L.A. Times: "He can say anything he wants. At the end of the day, if I feel like a guy is not playing the right way for our team, I'll make a change. I don't think there's any more to it than that."
There was obvious friction between the coach and the player and Bynum took to standing alone away from the team huddle during timeouts.
He told reporters the reason he stands apart from the rest of the team is because he is "getting his zen on."
Okay. Does anyone buy that or was that his way of saying 'I wish Phil Jackson was still coaching the Lakers?'
3. Bynum Doesn't Seem to Understand What It Means to Be an LA Laker
Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum battle at the 2012 All-Star Game
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
You often hear passionate fans of the Lakers say this about their team and its players:
"You either want to be here and be a Laker or you don't."
Despite his many talents, Bynum often seems more interested in laughing with teammates or listening to music with his headphones on than he does about basketball and winning.
From all accounts, Bynum can be an engaging guy off the court with all sorts of interests outside of basketball, including fast cars, music and reading.
But how is that helping him become the leader of the Lakers?
Bynum says he will test the free agent market next summer and who can blame him? But he often makes statements without really thinking about the consequences and that has hurt him time and time again.
While speaking to Orlando Sentinel reporter Brian Schmitz in late February about all the trade rumors and where he might end up before the trade deadline, Bynum casually replied: "It doesn't matter to me; I don't read the headlines. There's a bank in every city, and I'm going to play hard basketball wherever I go, so I'm good.
"I really don't care about it, man. You've just got to play basketball, just have fun. A lot of people lose that … it's a business and this and that. You're playing a game, and it's something you've been doing since you were a kid. If you just get back to that and just play, nothing matters."
On some levels, what he says makes total sense. But these are the Los Angeles Lakers, the iconic basketball franchise with 16 banners hanging from the Staples Center rafters. And you, Andrew Bynum, are their starting All-Star center following in the footsteps of Wilt, Kareem, and Shaq.
The Lakers have a tremendous opportunity with Steve Nash joining Kobe and Gasol in the new starting lineup. Bynum may still be a big part of that opportunity.
The real question is does he really want to take the ball and run with it or move on to the next town with the ATM machines?
Those decisions may soon be out of Andrew Bynum's control.
4. Bynum Opted to Go Fishing Rather Than Play in the Olympics
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Mark Medina of the L.A. Times blogged about Bynum and his attitude issues as being the No. 1 question surrounding the talented center.
"Bynum's pledged on improving his leadership skills, aware that his increased role depends on it. But those are just words. Bynum's participation in the Olympics would've revealed if he was serious about taking the necessary actions to do so."
Staying healthy is, of course, paramount to the longevity and productivity of Andrew Bynum's career. Resting his knees is a legitimate excuse.
But, Bynum was healthy all of last season and so getting the chance to play on a team of the NBA's very best (Kobe, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, et al) and gain that precious international experience would have really thrust him into more of a leadership role with L.A.
Andrew Bynum is an enigma; the Lakers know that. He can play better than most any center in basketball. And yet he may not stay a Laker all that much longer.