Bank Shots: LA should move on from Bynum
The Los Angeles Lakers have had some of the greatest centers in NBA history put on their patented yellow and purple uniform. Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal combined for 98,402 points in their careers and all won championships with the Lakers.
But O’Neal was traded from LA to Miami before the 2004-05 season, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the floor for the Lakers.
In the first season in the post-Shaq era, LA missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons.
Missing the playoffs automatically puts you into the NBA’s Draft Lottery. Instead of being able to pick top-flight college players or high schoolers, the Lakers always seemed to pick in the last three or four of the first round.
But in the 2005 draft, picking 10th, LA was poised to grab an elite talent to pair with Kobe Bryant. After All-Stars like Deron Williams and Chris Paul had been selected, the Lakers took a flier on a high schooler named Andrew Bynum from St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, N.J.
Initially, I was excited for Bynum to make it to the NBA. His high school competes in the same conference as mine, so I got a chance to watch Bynum up close.
I was impressed with his statistics. During a game in his senior year, my school played his and a bunch of my friends and I went to the game.
Our center, a player named Dan Stonkus, completely shut down Bynum, and we chanted, “Over-rated” in the fourth quarter of what I believe was a blowout win for my school. I’d like it to be known that Stonkus ended up at NJIT, a school that lost 51 straight games, an NCAA record.
But Bynum ended up in Hollywood under the bright lights of Staples Center, with Jack Nicholson sitting courtside and Kobe Bryant commanding the attention on the floor.
In his first season, he barely played and looked like he could be a bust in the making. The following season, he played in all 82 games and progressed as a player. But the year after that, the injury bug began to bite Bynum. He dislocated his left kneecap and missed the remainder of the season.
In the 2008-09 season, he tore the MCL in his right knee and missed a significant amount of time.
Bryant made it known that the Lakers should have traded Bynum when given the opportunity, and Bynum clashed with management repeatedly.
Last season, at the ripe age of 23, Bynum established himself as someone to be relied on while on the floor, but not necessarily off of it.
In the playoffs against Dallas, Bynum reached a low point in his career, committing a ridiculous flagrant foul on J.J. Barea and then ripping off his jersey and walking off the court like a thug.
I lost every ounce of respect for the kid when he did that, and I know I wasn’t alone. In this strike-shortened season, Bynum has averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds per game and has helped LA stay near the top of the Western Conference.
But recently, Bynum has been in the news for all of the wrong reasons. Trying to be a rebel, he began shooting 3-pointers and sagging off on defense.
He was recently tossed from a game against Houston for picking up two technical fouls, and instead of keeping his head down while walking off the floor, Bynum slapped the hands of fans sitting courtside. And most recently, Bynum missed a meeting with General Manager Mitch Kupchak and has been fined.
The Lakers should seriously consider moving Bynum to another team this summer, because regardless of his abilities on the floor, he’s becoming a headache and a half to deal with off of it.
I’m unimpressed with Bynum overall.
I honestly can’t get his clunker against South Brunswick High School out of my head, and I think it would do the Lakers a lot of good to part ways and try and go in a new direction at the center spot, as long as it doesn’t mean trading Bynum to Orlando for Dwight Howard. Then I’ll be very upset and wishing Bynum had not been moved at all.