5 Reasons Why Andrew Bynum Has Even More Pressure to Succeed with the LA Lakers
It was a moment that provoked outrage around the league and within the Lakers family. It also overshadowed what should have been a moment of growth for Bynum.
He was arguably the Lakers MVP after the All-Star break, the centerpiece of the team winning 17 out of 18 games. Bynum averaged a near double-double in the postseason (14.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game), but all of that disappeared with one forearm.
It also didn’t help matters that Bynum called the team out after its Game 2 loss. On the one hand, you could salute him for stepping up, but on the other, he has to be able to back up those words night in and night out, something he hasn’t done in his career.
If there is going to be a 2011-12 NBA season, Andrew Bynum has extra pressure to succeed because he carries quite a few burdens on his shoulders. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Restore His Reputation
Plain and simple, Bynum needs to show that he can be a physical player, not a dirty one. He’s already shown flashes that he can be a defensive stopper and rebounder, but now he needs to prove he can be effective without the reputation of being a headhunter.
Most players only have to worry about improving their game, but Bynum has to earn good favor again. As anyone will tell you, once you’ve been scarred with a bad name, it’s hard to shake it. Just ask Kermit Washington after his punch on Rudy Tomjanovich.
Bynum’s hit on J.J. Barea will cost him five games whenever the season the starts. He should be using this extra vacation time to work on impressing his teammates and fans with his game and maturity.
2. Jim Buss' Loyalty
Now that Jim Buss has taken over day-to-day operations of the team, he considers Bynum untradeable, per Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski. It was Buss placing his foot down to say that his reputation as owner and the future of the team lies with his seven-foot investment.
That’s even more pressure on Bynum to perform on the court. That kind of support and faith from ownership means you have to go out and validate it.
Jim Buss believes Andrew Bynum is the future of the Lakers, and with him in charge, it’s on Bynum to go out and show that he’s worth being the franchise cornerstone.
3. Health Issues
Speaking of Bynum being a cornerstone, he needs to get healthy. In the last three seasons, he’s played over 60 games just once. The good news is that most of those have come at the end of the season, but he’s always one bad injury away from being in street clothes for a while.
Lakers fans have almost expected this to happen at some point, and if there is a shortened season with more games crammed into a short time frame, Bynum is a major injury risk. If his time is limited, he needs to play hard in every game and be the double-double machine he can be.
Expecting Bynum to play in 70 games is a stretch. But expecting him to play well every night knowing that he’s one bad break away isn’t, and he has to realize that urgency.
4. Contract Status
Bynum is in the last year of his three-year contract extension. The team does have a fourth-year option on him that pays $16 million in 2012-13, but given how much Jim Buss is a fan of him, it’s almost safe to assume the team will pick that up.
The pressure of playing for a new contract will force him to play at a high level, though. There’s a good chance teams will be cautious about how much they sign guys for after the lockout, so Bynum has to play well to ensure that he’ll command top dollar from the Lakers.
The pressure of playing for his future will make it even more imperative for Bynum to step his game up.
5. Key to This Season
If the Lakers are to make one or two last runs with Kobe Bryant, it’s up to his teammates to elevate their game and shoulder more of his load. All eyes will be on Bynum to be one of those main players.
Bynum averaged 11.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. His PPG average was his worst in his last four years and a drop from his career high of 15.0 in 2009-2010. That has to increase next year.
It’s a fair statement to make that when healthy, Bynum is a top-five center in the NBA. His post game is solid, he's a defensive anchor and he grabs rebounds. It’s just on Bynum to be motivated to prove that he can be a reliable presence on the court every night.
With the end of Bryant’s career coming soon and Pau Gasol passing 30 years old, Bynum must use this season to assert himself, and his play could determine how far the Lakers go because of his added dimension in the paint.
It’s hard to believe, but at 24, Andrew Bynum will be entering his seventh NBA season. It’s been an up-and-down road, filled with growing pains and actual pains, and while Lakers fans see Bynum’s promise, we also know that we’re usually in for a tease every year.
With Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher being closer to retirement, though, it means that the next year or two will be vital, and nobody plays a bigger role than Bynum. He not only has the pressure of a bigger responsibility but the added pressure of proving he’s worth Jim Buss’ gamble and not a dirty player.
It’s a lot to expect from a 24-year-old, but it’s time for Bynum to grow up and be consistent. To whom much is given, much is required, and in the last year of a three-year deal, with a fourth-year option, it’s time for Bynum to show and prove when the Lakers need him the most.