Despite how many times, while covering the Los Angeles Lakers, that I’ve written about “Andrew Bynum’s predisposition for future knee injuries,” there I was in the fantasy basketball draft room understanding exactly why the Philadelphia 76ers would take such a huge gamble.
With the 12th overall pick in my draft, I contemplated selecting Bynum and all the damage he seemed poised to do this season as the 76ers’ much-needed paint presence—without having to share the ball with Kobe Bryant.
It takes self-control to put the adrenaline aside and stick with the logic, which the Orlando Magic absolutely did in refusing to trade for Bynum over the summer. The even clearer reality now is that Bynum, for all his size and skills and a work ethic that has improved dramatically in recent years, can never be a franchise player.
Bynum’s knees are just too risky, and the 76ers had better wise up when the time comes—no matter if Bynum does make it back and starts throwing down for them late this season. They would be fools to max him out when his contract expires at season’s end.
It’s a long shot that they listen and make the smarter move: a sign-and-trade package to some other club dreaming of having the best of Bynum at all times. But take it from someone who has heard too much from those in the know with the Lakers, people who have learned to understand terms such as “genetic predisposition” and “ligamentous laxity” a lot better than they want to.
In his last season coaching Bynum, Phil Jackson consciously limited Bynum’s minutes simply in hopes of limiting his exposure to injury. You think that kind of body can ever hold up while carrying a team? No franchise should be built on that kind of risk.
There are plenty of angles to Bynum that I respect. I like him a lot more than most writers who’ve covered his career do. People don’t want to acknowledge that he deserves a ton of credit for working diligently and making himself into an All-Star when he was the youngest player ever to enter the league and utterly lacking in the knowledge of how to get where he wanted to go.
Upon establishing himself as a top player in this league, Bynum has chosen to let his personality shine through in ways that rub observers the wrong way—growing his hair out flamboyantly, enjoying fast cars and loud music, basically not giving a crap what anyone thinks of him or what he likes.
He’s refreshingly candid and truly an independent thinker, which doesn’t make him the bad seed some portray him to be.
Yet there is one red flag in the mental sense, and it’s a doozy: Bynum really doesn’t want to win as much as many other great players in this league.
Part of it is not his fault: Winning came rather easily to him with the Lakers in 2009 and ’10. He shifted his priorities toward achieving individual goals. Substantial as those goals were—and he did meet many of them—they were individual goals in a team game, and that’s another thing on which a franchise should never be built.
I wound up drafting Atlanta forward Josh Smith, who hasn’t exactly dominated this season but at least has played. I just traded Smith and Stephen Curry in a package that netted LeBron James. Bynum went with the 14th overall pick to what is now a dead-end team that has renamed itself “Bynum’s Circus.”
Fantasy or reality, expecting to be a great team because of Bynum is just bad business.
Kevin Ding is the Lakers writer for the OCRegister.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinDing.
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