I didn’t like this signing from the start. I would have much rather rolled with Ian Mahinmi as Roy Hibbert’s back up than even talked about picking up Bynum. But, Larry Bird met with Bynum before they signed him, and it seems that almost everything basketball-related turns to gold once Larry Bird* touches it. So, hey, I thought, let’s at least let Bynum play a minute before we declare this a terrible idea. Which, it should be added, was going to be awhile, because the Pacers (and Bynum, one would assume) are in no hurry to add him to the mix.
*There’s no real relevance to the story here, but I just can’t talk about Larry Bird one more time without pointing out what sort of wedding cake aficionado he apparently is. And the ten gallons of ice cream he apparently had with those cakes.
Whatever Bynum said to The Legend in their meeting, however, was certainly not said to the press. For example, Scott Agness, a writer for Pacers.com, asked Bynum if he’s kept his workout regimen up since Cleveland let him. His answer was a flat “no.” Candace Buckner* also asked him about what he’s done to stay in shape, to which he could only say he watched his diet. He also acknowledged he wasn’t in tip-top shape, but that he should be able to bounce back quickly. From the last link: “I was out for a significant amount of time, but it’s not the end-of-the-world amount of time where I would go back to square zero.”
*Any relation to Quinn Buckner? I don’t know, but it sure seems likely. There’s a resemblance.
Maybe not square zero, but I could certainly see Square One, Mr. Bynum. Seriously, it’s like he’s never quite figured out that he’s playing professional basketball. Not only professionally, but in the top league in the world. This isn’t like picking up with a team at the local Y. I don’t totally understand where this comes from, but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine it’s from getting too much too soon.
Remember, he came into the league straight from high school in 2005. If memory serves, he would have been the last class who could make that kind of leap. When he made his debut for the Lakers, he became the youngest player to ever play in the NBA, a record that seems like it will stand for quite some time thanks to the “one and done” rule.* He has a history of doing and saying dumb stuff like this, and I think it’s from a severe lack of polish.
*Which, if the rumblings I’ve been hearing are correct, new commissioner Adam Silver is absolutely set on making that at “two and done” rule, which I would appreciate much more than the current set up. I’d rather have the old set up in an ideal world, though maybe with better use of the D-League, but it seems pretty clear that’s not happening any time soon.
People question his motivation and his drive for the game. And that’s fair. He’s certainly given enough ammo over his career, and this latest round of quotes will certainly fuel that fire. I just don’t know if I buy that argument, though. I obviously don’t know him personally or talked to him at all, but I wonder if a lot of it is simple immaturity mixed in with a healthy dose of naivety. He did not get the intellectual or social growth that even a year or two of college would provide. I’m sure he coasted by on natural talent and reputation through high school. That’s what I would expect somebody of his size and talent at that age. Instilling a certain kind of work ethic probably would have happened in college, too.*
*Look at the jump AJ Hammons has made from his freshman year to sophomore year. The consistency isn’t quite there, but he certainly looks like a different player. I think that’s a good comparison mentally, too.
He’s been in the league almost ten years now, so there’s no excuse for it. He certainly should have learned how to lie through his teeth if need be for the media by now. When you are asked if you stayed in shape while you were out of basketball, you tell them you’ve been in the gym almost every day, whether that’s true or not. Maybe you don’t know that when you first get out of high school, but you certainly know that by now. But, somehow, that’s never clicked with Bynum. He’s honest, you have to give him that. Even respect him for it. But it doesn’t do much to respect him as an athlete, especially on a team that’s trying to win a championship.
Will Andrew Bynum ever see the floor as Pacer? Probably, but I don’t know if he will ever actually be Roy Hibbert’s back up. I don’t know that he becomes the legend that is Chris Copeland,* but I could totally see Mahinmi still getting significant minutes. At this point, it seems clearer all the time that this signing was entirely about keeping Bynum away from the Heat.
*I don’t mean that as a diss. The crowd constantly begs for Copeland to see the floor in the fourth quarter, and there is audible anticipation whenever he gets the ball. Pacer fans genuinely love the guy. Some of that may come from how he always seem to manage to light the Pacers up while he was a Knick. But, I think a bigger part comes from all parties understanding that he’s just not going to play a lot of minutes with David West and Luis Scola ahead of him.
That’s partially a shame for Bynum. Because he made the leap straight from high school, he should have quite a few years left. But this stop with the Pacers is probably one of his last shots in the NBA, and who knows what kind of shot it will be. He’s been run out of every other stop in his career. Things did not end well in Los Angeles. Or Philadelphia. Or Cleveland. The Pacers only signed him for a minimum for the remainder of the season. I would be shocked if he were here past that. There is some talent there, but are the headaches and the injuries worth it? At some point, GMs are going to say no. I could see that point coming very soon.
Would he have helped Miami? Much more so than the Pacers, it seems. The Heat were desperate enough to see what Greg Oden could give them, and the answer is 70 minutes and 23 points so far.* That’s their insurance policy against Roy Hibbert. Bynum could at least give you more than that. Which is a shame, because you hear nothing but good stories out of Greg Oden. His body just betrayed him.
*For the curious, Michael Beasley’s return to Miami has gone “eh.” He’s played in 34 of Miami’s 50 games and averages just over 8 points an outing. I mean, it could be a lot worse, but nobody’s breaking down the door to see that.
I don’t think there’s any anticipated date for Bynum to make his Pacer debut. Sometime after this weekend’s All Star break. And that’s fine by me. I really wouldn’t mind if he never see him in blue and gold, though I’m sure he will play some. I do think there is more to Andrew Bynum and his attitude than meets the eye, but at this stage in his life, there is nowhere to point the finger but himself.
Now ask yourself, does that sound like anybody else on this Pacers roster? Does that sound like somebody who fits into this team chemistry? Give me Ian, please. Every time.