Now's Not the Time to Panic Sixers Fans, Andrew Bynum Won't Be a Giant Bust

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIOctober 2, 2012

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With news of Andrew Bynum being sidelined for 21 days to recover from a knee procedure, Philadelphia 76ers fans are beginning to discover how the Los Angeles Lakers have felt for the better part of a decade. Bynum is an immensely talented player, but the latest episode confirms the notion that he may never be able to escape the injury bug.

Fear not, Sixers fans. The latest precaution being taken is not a sign of his injury prone nature. Instead, it's proof that Andrew Bynum has finally begun to escape his history of medical issues.

To be fair, there is merit to the concerns many have with his health. Bynum has missed 166 regular season games in seven years. That equates to an average of roughly 24 missed games per season.

Bynum also missed the entirety of the 2008 postseason, including the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA Finals series against the Boston Celtics.

After spending just six games sidelined during the 2011-12 NBA campaign, however, Bynum appeared to be on the final lap of his road to recovery. The latest precautionary measures being taken are simply an assurance that he will be at 100 percent for the first time in his career come the 2012-13 regular season.

Quite the scary notion considering how dominant Bynum has been over the past year.

During the 2011-12 regular season, Andrew Bynum averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per contest. Bynum also blocked 1.9 shots per contest, with an improvement from 2.6 personal fouls per night in 2011 to just 1.7 in 2012.

A sign of his maturity on defense.

Although his turnover rate increased, Bynum became a more intricate part of the Lakers' gameplan. In response, he evolved into a more responsible player and finally began to overcome those mental lapses that had haunted him throughout the duration of his career.

Once the postseason rolled around, the superstar in the making began to realize his potential. Bynum finished the Lakers' opening round series against the Denver Nuggets with averages of 16.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game.

This came as a direct result of his record-setting Game 1 in which the big man swatted 10 shots. His 27-point performance in Game 2 surely didn't hurt, either.

With this being noted, Bynum does have his moments of severe disappointment. During the Lakers' season-ending loss in Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bynum finished with just 10 points, four rebounds and five fouls in 35 minutes.

Game 3, the only one which L.A. managed to win, was no better. The big man closed out the night by shooting just 2-of-13 from the floor. Regardless of these shortcomings, Bynum still managed to show that he's capable of carrying a franchise.

Bynum responded to a poor shooting night by going 11-of-12 from the charity stripe. This was yet another development in his game as he improved from 69.2 percent free throw shooting during the regular season to 78.3 percent shooting in the playoffs.

Bynum finished Game 3 with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

For an established star, this should be a routine stat line. For Andrew Bynum, however, this is a sign that he has made significant strides as a player from both a mental and physical standpoint. No longer was he reacting to adversity by piling on the negatives.

In Philadelphia, Andrew Bynum will need to prove capable of such maturity on a nightly basis. He's one of the most veteran players on the roster and is widely considered to be the most talented individual.

As previously outlined, Bynum also happens to be the future focal point of the 76ers' offensive attack. If he can't lead the way mentally, his physical contributions may not mean much at all.

To put it simply, any concerns that fans and analysts have for Bynum's ability to lead a franchise are warranted. He will face an uphill battle as he's surrounded by the least talent in his seven-year career.

Just don't mistake adversity for certainty of failure.

Andrew Bynum has made the mental and physical strides necessary to avoid the label of bust. Although he remains in the process of becoming a legitimate superstar, he's come far enough where Doug Collins can say one thing with pride and certainty.

The Philadelphia 76ers have found their franchise centerpiece.