Throughout the history of the NBA, there have been many players who have not lived up to expectations. Often times these players get several chances, but no matter what, they never live up to their potential. On Wednesday the Indiana Pacers parted with Andrew Bynum for the season — a stint that may likely signal that the injury-prone center’s career is finished.
Bynum, despite only being 26 years of age, has had a long, storied career in the NBA. He was drafted initially by the Lakers at 17 years of age, presumably as a project player, and that is exactly what he was. His first season he barely played, while he served as a decent bench player in his second.
It is his third season, everything came together. This season also foreshadowed his future in the league. In the 2007-2008 season he averaged 13.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg and 2.1 bpg, but he only played 35 games that season. 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 were both seasons that the Lakers won championships. In those seasons, Bynum looked good by averaging 14.65 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 1.6 bpg during the season. However, he also averaged only 57 games per season, and by the time he made it to the finals, he was averaging 6.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 1 rpg at a rate of 21 minutes per contest.
During both finals, Bynum was on shaky ground. Often, he would have his knees drained prior to games, and because of his knees giving out, he was unable to contribute much to the team. The following two seasons would be his last of any considerable impact in the NBA. He would go on to have high season averages but would only play 114 games between both seasons due to ongoing knee problems.
It was after the 2011-2012 season that would see the injury prone player get to the point where he is today. The Lakers, who were fed up with the injuries, finally had enough during the offseason. As a result, they participated in a 4-team trade that shipped Bynum to the 76ers, while the Lakers got Dwight Howard. It was a controversial move at the time. Many felt as though, despite the injuries, that Bynum was the better player.
The Lakers were the ones laughing last with Bynum never playing a single game for Philadelphia. He was traded while he was injured. However, during this time period, he decided to play a game of bowling. Not surprisingly, the big man got injured before the season even began. It was rumored all season when Bynum would start playing, but he never did. Instead, his contract ran out without playing a single minute of the 2012-2013 season.
Beyond this point, Bynum would continue to show his immaturity and inability to come back successfully. Beyond the bowling incident, prior to his final season on the Lakers, the oft-injured player, who needed surgery, elected to prolong it the operation, so he could go on vacation in South America and Europe.
Next, Bynum was signed to a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers worth $24.5 million over two years; however, only 1/4 of that was guaranteed. Bynum only played 24 games for Cleveland this year, averaging 8.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 1.2 bpg. While those numbers paled in comparison to his 2011-2012 season, what resulted in his dismissal was undefined conduct detrimental to the team. Immediately, the center was suspended indefinitely before being shipped to the Bulls. Instead of dealing with the headaches of Andrew Bynum, the Bulls waived him.
Immediately after Bynum was waived, despite his awful reputation, he was in talks with several franchises. He chose the Indiana Pacers, a team which planned to use the big man as Roy Hibbert’s backup. As was expected, he did not play until many weeks after the signing. When he did, he only played two games before injuring his knees again. In hindsight, it most likely was Bynum’s last chance. Initially, he did make the best of it by averaging 11.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg, but it turned out to be a pipe dream for the Pacers.
What is interesting about his exit from Indiana is that it was rumored that his presence on the team intimidated Roy Hibbert. What is more intriguing is that Hibbert’s numbers dropped significantly upon Bynum’s arrival. Whether this was a direct affect of the controversial center or not is arguable. With Hibbert failing in the playoffs recently, the Pacers tried a Hail Mary by removing Bynum, thus giving them a rejuvenated Hibbert.
Andrew Bynum’s career now is a big question mark. Between all of Bynum’s injury woes and immaturity, has he played his final NBA game? Most likely.
It was a high risk when the Cavaliers signed Bynum. Many questioned why a team would take him on after his experience – or lack of experience – in Philadelphia. As such, they kept him on a tight leash, but it did not reign him in. Instead, there are rumors how he became a cancer in the locker room which, arguably, is what he was in Indiana as well.
Bynum has had more chances than one can count. He could have treated his injury with seriousness and had surgery immediately. He could have showed his dedication by healing his knee up for the 76ers. He could have been a team player in Cleveland. He had a chance to serve a huge role for a championship team in the Pacers.
At this point though, it seems doubtful that Bynum will be anything but wasted talent. In his final season with the Lakers, he showed that he had the potential of being one of the great centers. However, between Andrew Bynum’s immaturity and broken down body, he is likely finished. No team, not even a lottery team, will want to invest time and money into a mirage, which is exactly what Bynum has become.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey