Will Andrew Bynum's Knee Problems Turn Him into the Next Greg Oden?
Sound familiar? That's right, I'm looking at you Greg Oden.
You all remember Oden, the big man who was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers with the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. The one who has appeared in just 82 total games for his career. The one who no longer has a team to call his own.
Yeah, that Oden.
Is Bynum next? Will he be the latest big man who is pushed out of the league courtesy of non-existent durability? Is his career destined to be marred—and subsequently shortened—by those feeble knees of his?
One year ago we would have been crazy to entertain such a notion. Bynum has been what you would consider injury-prone, yet his livelihood has never truly been threatened.
Per Bob Cooney of the Daily News, the Sixers have little to nothing to offer up on Bynum's progress or lack thereof:
Asked about the progress of Andrew Bynum before the game, Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo said there really is no update and that Bynum is progressing from his knee issues.
Asked if Bynum was past the first of the six stages of progress toward recovery, DiLeo said yes but was very vague as to what that means. There probably will be an update when the team returns from its road trip next week.
The continued mysteriousness that surrounds Bynum's health is nothing short of vexing. It's as if he's not even a part of the team anymore. It's as if Philly becomes all hot and bothered by inquiries regarding his rehabilitation because they've moved on.
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Again, I draw your attention to Oden, who was but a stranger to the Blazers upon his departure. After multiple surgeries and a slew of dashed hopes, Oden was but a memory Portland wanted to distance itself from.
Will he play in the NBA again? Of course. We know he already wants to and an onslaught of teams won't shy away from giving him a millionth chance. He's a seven-footer, and even if you seldom consider yourself a member of the vast NBA circle, you understand that the basketball world is enamored by anything that is seven-feet tall.
But will he ever become the star he was meant to be? Will he ever be associated with anything other than tragedy first? Can he quell the remaining concerns to the point of extinction?
Absolutely not. Amar'e Stoudemire, a six-time All-Star, has been unable to disentangle himself from the knee, back and eye injuries that have become synonymous with his very existence. And if he can't do it, we'd be hard-pressed to believe that Oden can.
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What about Bynum, though? Can he salvage what is left of his reputation? Can he not only stave off, but altogether avoid the reality of falling so far that he can't recover?
Averting even more disaster begins with returning to the hardwood and making a tangible effort to rejuvenate a franchise he was supposed to save. On that front, though, ambivalence reigns supreme.
Philadelphia is reluctant to commit to anything other than the notion that Bynum continues to make marginal progress. That doesn't leave us with much to go on. Nothing that supports what many hope is an inevitable return.
Bynum himself has been more candid. He steadfastly believes and readily admits (via ESPN.com) that his intent is to play this season:
"I'm confident I'll be on the court this season," said Bynum, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team trade before the season.
"The bone bruises are healed and the swelling is gone, so those two things are great. We're just waiting for mechanical issues to be resolved, and that's going to take anywhere from a month to two. I have no idea, but we're going to work toward grinding it out so it's not causing me any problems."
To an extent, Bynum's optimism is abating. His resolve to re-enter the fold is something we have not bore witness to before, even when he was considered a prized possession with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Yet his sentiments mean little when no timetable has been provided, when his own team has been anything but forthright about his current endeavor.
But does that put him in the same proverbial boat as Oden?
No, because if we're honest, Bynum's career has been more of a cruel being than Oden's.
He's out-performed his counterpart in every facet of the game and has seven years of experience under his belt. He also has one All-Star appearance to his credit.
And yet, that's what leaves such a callous taste in in our mouth. Bynum can play; we know he can play. His career averages of 16.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks on 56.6 shooting per game are no fluke. They're a clear representation of the player he can be.
The operative word here is "can." We know what he can do, yet we're also privy to what he hasn't been able to do thus far—remain healthy.
We can look at Oden and see a potential star, but Bynum is a star. A star who, to date, has missed more than a third of all his regular-season games. A star who has toed the lines of greatness, only to stumble and thus perpetuate the ambiguous disposition that his career.
A star whose legitimacy is questioned with every injury he incurs, every game he misses and every setback.
Which makes the ever-present dubiety surrounding Bynum's career more painful to withstand.
Injuries and all, he's been proved effective when on the court. Oden's career-marks of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game pale in comparison to what Bynum has done.
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Oden could have been a star. His size, mobility and prowess implies he could have developed into a dominant force at the professional level. He could have been one of the most formidable big men in the game.
But Bynum is all those things, and more. This isn't a case of "could have, should have." This is about him attempting to preserve reality, protecting what is.
Will Bynum's knees force him out of the NBA?
So no, Bynum isn't the next Oden. His production while on the floor suggests that if he ever returns to form, he'll be able to reverse his current misfortunes.
Should he fail, should his knees ultimately cost him his career, though, he still doesn't become the second-coming of Oden.
Because this then becomes a case of remembering what once was.
A state of existence that is far more harrowing than attempting to conceive what could have been for Oden.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of January 1, 2013.
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