Why Andrew Bynum's Knee Injury Proves L.A. Lakers Stole Dwight Howard

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2012

Oct.1, 2012, 2012;   El Segundo, CA, USA;    Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) poses during media day at the Los Angeles Lakers Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The Philadelphia 76ers initially characterized Andrew Bynum's absence from training camp as a precautionary measure, but you can't help but think there's slightly more to it than that.

Bynum himself seemed to concede as much when asked when he might return (via the Daily News' Bob Cooney):

"I'm not sure," Bynum said. "It's really up to the trainers and the doctors right now, but I think if all the beans were on the table right now I'd be out there. It definitely feels better. A lot of it has to do with my pain threshold. It's just to the point where I can't run up and down with the team right now."

Are those mixed messages I hear?

Apparently we're dealing with a precautionary absence, and Bynum could play if he really need to—he's just in too much pain to actually run. Maybe something's getting lost in the translation, and maybe that suits the 76ers just fine. So long as they know what's going on, we're good.

Except, of course, for the fact that Bynum's injury history is scarier than Halloween in West Hollywood.

Meanwhile, the Lakers' fortunes seem too good to be true.


Let's remember the obvious—this trade was a steal from the outset. Even if you believe that Howard and Bynum are comparable talents, the Lakers made themselves better as a team, especially in the near term. Howard's expertise (mobile defense, explosiveness, the pick-and-roll) better suit Los Angeles' needs than Bynum's post-skills.

Shaquille O'Neal may very well be right about Howard's skills trailing Bynum and Brook Lopez, at least in certain, important respects. But he's the best fit for the Lakers, a club that needed speed and mobility on both ends of the floor.

The fact that L.A. pulled this off without losing Pau Gasol made it even more of a steal. Apparently GM Mitch Kupchak was due for a free upgrade.

So the news that Bynum is watching DVDs about Philly's offense while Howard gets ready to dunk on his teammates like they're small children isn't what made this a heist—it's just a friendly reminder.

Lakers reporter Mike Trudell notes that doctors are now allowing Dwight to participate in five-on-five scrimmages, marking the latest development in a saga that has the rest of the NBA saying, "Great... just great."

Philly fans can't feel especially bitter about anything. The 76ers were never in the running for Howard's services. Few were.

Bynum and Jason Richardson came at a relatively modest cost, and that's no knock on Andre Iguodala or Nikola Vucevic. Injury risks aside, a 24-year-old center with Bynum's physical tools and command of the game are rare. It's too soon for any 20/20 hindsight to kick in, but if you ask the 76ers a year or two from now whether they'd do this deal again, I'm guessing they'll say yes.

The Lakers getting a steal doesn't mean the 76ers got scammed.

But yeah, the Lakers made like bandits.

It's not often that you'd say that when the haul is a guy coming off back surgery, but there may be something to this whole Man of Steel thing after all (don't worry, Shaq—you'll always be the original Man of Steel, or at least the original Steel).

Howard's worked hard to return to game condition, and the fears that he'd miss a portion of the regular season have all but faded—relics of our preconceived notions about how mere mortals recover from injury. This is par for the course among superheros.

And it's par for the course in L.A.

Everything has gone right for the Lakers this summer, as if the basketball gods were bored with showering the Miami Heat with good fortune—or perhaps eager to see what happens when two Titans clash.

Steal or otherwise, the Lakers have proven nothing just yet. When they do—and they will—we'll be charging this team with grand larceny.