Andrew Bynum's knee injury appears to have affected his thinking, because he isn't making any sense.
None at all.
The injury-riddled center remained on the sidelines as his new team battled unsuccessfully against his old one. But just because Bynum was listed as inactive doesn't mean he wasn't active. He actually had plenty to say.
Prior to the Los Angeles Lakers' beat down of the Philadelphia 76ers, Bynum offered some unflattering sentiments to a group of reporters (via Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com) about his time playing next to Kobe Bryant:
"I thought it really helped me a lot obviously at first, because he draws so much attention it's hard for guys to double team and key on you, so it helped me tremendously," Bynum told a group of L.A. reporters before the Lakers played the Sixers on Sunday. "Later, I felt I was able to get the ball more and do more things with the ball, so I could definitely see how it could stunt growth."
Personally, I have many problems with the thoughts Bynum offers. Though his opinion was not delivered with any sort of malice in his voice or even his intent, it was incredibly perplexing.
Because it makes less sense than his haircut.
After spending an entire segment essentially claiming that Bryant's presence helped him "tremendously," he concluded he could see how Kobe may have stunted his growth.
Now, Bynum didn't actually say that Bryant hindered his development, but the fact that Bynum could fathom such a possibility implies that he felt that way to a certain extent. Bryant's eventual admission that he could see how he may have stifled Bynum's potential only furthers such a conclusion.
But while I normally avoid contradicting the immensely wise Black Mamba, I don't see how either he or Bynum could be more wrong.
Let's ignore, just for a second, the fact that Bynum's argument makes no sense. Let's also ignore that his recollection of his time in Los Angeles was about as clear as dishwater. Instead, let's assume he communicated his inferences coherently and cogently.
Now that that's out of the way, does Bynum have a proverbial leg to stand on?
Playing alongside Bryant in no way impeded his growth. How could it have? Again, even Bynum himself admitted he thought it helped him "tremendously."
There is definitely some merit to Bynum's theory that playing alongside Kobe kept the ball out of his hands. Bryant is a ball-dominator, after all.
But that's hardly a bad thing. Is the fifth-leading NBA scorer of all time supposed to apologize for doing his job?
Call me crazy, but I'd rather see my conventional bigs scoring off lobs and pick-and-rolls, not excessive ball-handling. Especially when we're talking about Bynum. Not only is he a sloppy handler, but the more he is tasked with creating for himself, the more he attempts some ill-advised shots.
Let's not forget that this is the same Bynum who attempted to steal the ball from his own teammate in the waning moments of a blowout victory over the San Antonio Spurs. All because he wanted to attempt a three-pointer.
If you ask me, I think we all—Bynum included—owe Bryant a hearty "thank you" for keeping the ball out of Bynum's hands if that was actually the case. Remember, this is the same Bynum who can't even be trusted with a bowling ball apparently.
Bynum's immaturity as an athlete, however, is only part of the story. I could sit here and tell you how Bryant was saving him from himself until I'm blue, green or orange in the face and it wouldn't mean everything.
What does mean everything, though, is Bynum's eventual evolution. He averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds—both career highs—on 55.8 percent shooting from the floor en route to his first All-Star appearance last season. And he did so alongside Kobe.
Are we honestly supposed to believe that Bynum accomplished such a feat in spite of Bryant?
Only if we're as whimsical as Bynum is.
I'm no doctor, but I'm more inclined to believe that the center's evolution was dwarfed by his degenerative knees more than anything else.
Bear in mind that this is the same Bynum who has played in 60 or more games just three times in seven years. The same Bynum who has yet to play at all this season. The same Bynum who, to date, has missed 190 of 582 possible regular-season games in seven-plus years. The same Bynum who has spent one-third of his NBA career on the shelf.
Couldn't that have something to do with it?
Of course not. It's all on Bryant, the same player who led the Lakers to two championships alongside Bynum. He's clearly the source of all his former teammate's struggles.
Forget that fact that in the three seasons Bynum played in 60 or more games, he averaged a combined 16.6 points compared to the 14.2 he put up in the four years he failed to hit that mark. Forget that he won two championships because of Kobe. Forget that he emerged as a No. 1 offensive option alongside the Mamba. Forget that he's now free from the supposed shackles that came with partnering up with Bryant and has yet to play a single game.
Then remember we're supposed to take his indistinct words as fact. Remember that we're supposed to take the word of an inexperienced veteran who has embodied ambiguity in his time away from Kobe.
And then remember that you're more than free to allow Bynum's words fly over your head and into the nearest pile of garbage. Because that's where they belong.
Bryant, in no way, shape or form crippled Bynum's potential or execution.
If Bynum's looking for someone or something to condemn, then he should blame himself. Or his knees. Hell, he can blame the kid who beat him in a rigorous battle of arcade-style basketball for all I care.
But Bynum shouldn't accuse or even attempt to implicate the man who carried his battered behind to two titles and deferred to Bynum last season when Bynum was finally a semblance of the player the Lakers spent nearly a decade waiting for.
Simply put, Andrew Bynum shouldn't put his shortcomings as a player and person on Kobe. Not even a little bit.
Because it's not his fault. It's Bynum's.
Always has been.
And if his time in Philly is any indication, it always will be.
All stats in this article are accurate as of December 17, 2012.
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