The Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly already begun the process of mitigating some of the inevitable bickering and drama that is sure to surround star center Andrew Bynum, who is on track for free-agent waters following next season.
The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding brings us up to speed with the following tweet:
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak spoke today with Andrew Bynum's agent David Lee about a contract extension for Bynum.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) July 25, 2012
The report is easily believable. Bynum, 24, is widely regarded as one of the top two centers in a league starved for premier big men. If he were to hit free agency, he would draw plenty of interest, which could wind up with the Lakers watching him walk away for nothing.
The other thing adding credibility to this report—and offering a glimpse of what a deal will cost the Lakers—is a recent report by ESPN's Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne. They state:
[The Lakers are] well aware that there will not be much wiggle room once the negotiations begin; Bynum will expect a max contract extension.
The report also points out that the Lakers would turn their attention to getting this deal done if they felt a trade for Dwight Howard "isn't feasible." The feasibility of that trade took a major hit with Chris Broussard's report this past Monday, citing league sources, saying the Magic "might not trade Dwight Howard after all."
This likely pushed the Lakers to the negotiating table with Bynum.
Bynum proved his worth last season, averaging career highs with 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. After a career hampered by injuries, he also enjoyed excellent durability, relatively speaking.
Still, the signing of Bynum to a big-time contract is not without its risks. He has been plagued by immaturity, questionable hustle and basketball intelligence on the court. Also, there is always the risk that his knee problems will resurface.
That said, the Lakers have little choice but to lock up Bynum. They can't risk losing a dominant center for nothing.