Casting a giant shadow wherever he goes, former Lakers center Andrew Bynum is on the loose again.
After not playing a single game in 2012-13 for the Philadelphia 76ers, the oft-injured big man suited up and hit the floor for two teams this season—the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers. He was also technically signed to the Chicago Bulls for a few hours before being waived.
It has been a strange couple of years for a player who was a dominant force in the league as recently as the 2011-12 season. Still just 26 years old, Bynum was the No. 10 pick for the Lakers in 2005—a raw 17-year-old straight out of high school, with tremendous size and potential.
And, questionable knees. That has been Bynum’s curse—along with an often diffident attitude.
Two summers ago, after his best statistical season in the NBA by far, Bynum was part of a four-team blockbuster trade that sent Andre Iguodala to Denver, with Dwight Howard exiting Orlando and entering an ill-fated one-year courtship with the Lakers.
Bynum went from a season average of 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks to sitting on the Philadelphia bench in street clothes, unable to play due to chronic pain and swelling in his knees.
And then came the comeback attempts as he signed with the Cavaliers, playing 24 games before being traded to the Bulls where he was promptly waived. He most recently signed with the Pacers, playing just two games before being cut. He averaged 8.7 points and 5.6 boards over those 26 games.
There has never been any question that Bynum has serious knee issues—the multiple surgeries, shortened seasons and limited minutes have been a constant reminder. Still, his championship career crashed to earth shockingly fast. Is there any reason to think that he could, in fact, still have something left to offer?
There were some hopeful signs this past season, including the last game of his brief stint with the Pacers in which he scored 15 points and pulled down nine boards in just 20 minutes. If he tries for another comeback it won’t be for the money—he’s earned around $80 million during his nine years in the league.
Bynum was recently questioned by a determined TMZ photographer at LAX airport. The former NBA champion allowed that he’d like to return to the Lakers but when asked if he can return to his old form, answered, “I don’t think so.”
The truth of course, is that free agency prognostications should not be settled by paparazzi in an airport parking garage.
The idea of Bynum providing some needed backcourt depth and strength in Los Angeles may be a pipedream, but it’s not unreasonable to wonder if it could happen.