Some may say it is too early to start picking on Andrew Bynum. I say, tell that to the Lakers’ opponents.
It doesn’t matter whether they are big or small. It seems like guards and forwards alike are all picking on the young Laker center.
The other night, little Nate Robinson of the Knicks snuck around behind the giant Bynum for an easy layup. On Friday night, the Magic’s Dwight Howard pushed Bynum around like shopping cart at a Wal-Mart clearance sale.
And what did Bynum do about it? He climbed all over Howard’s back like a kid asking for a piggyback ride and then grinned from ear-to-ear when the referee blew the whistle.
But then why shouldn’t he grin? Or, for that matter, laugh out loud? He’s 21 years-old and has $54.7 million in the bank, thanks to the poor business management of general manager, Mitch Kupchak.
The Lakers could have opted to let Bynum become a free agent at the end of the year. Then, if his play and longevity throughout the season proved invaluable, they could have matched any offer that Bynum’s agent, David Lee, had on the table.
But David Lee must have appeared more like Bruce Lee to make Kupchak reach into Jerry Buss’ pocket and pull out $54.7 million over four years.
At the time, it just didn’t make any sense to me to pay out all this money to a kid who only played in 35 games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
It seemed especially disconcerting when everyone expects Kobe Bryant to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, and the Lakers will need to back up the truck in Bryant’s driveway to keep the NBA’s MVP.
Perhaps the Lakers would have needed to pay Bynum a few million dollars more, but at least they would have known if he had been worth it.
Apparently, at this point in the season, he is not.
Appearing in 35 games last season, Bynum averaged 13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks. This year his average after 26 games has fallen to 12.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
That may seem like a small drop off, but the NBA doesn’t keep statistics on the most important statistic of all for a big man—intimidation. Namely, points allowed in the paint.
If they did, there wouldn’t be a drop off but a cave in.
Teams are driving at will to the basket on the Lakers, who were supposed to have dominating backcourt equal to, if not better than, the Boston Celtics.
Instead, it is the Lakers backcourt that is being dominated even the games they are winning. And Andrew Bynum is the main part of the reason.
This time last year, Bynum was beginning to assert his dominance from December to the mid-January when he was injured.
However, this year, it is just the opposite. His play has been deteriorating game-by-game. The other night against the Heat, he only had four points, six rebounds, no blocks, two turnovers, and four personal fouls.
Then against Dwight Howard and the Magic, Bynum had three points, two turnovers, 0 blocks, and—get this—only one rebound and five personal fouls.
And, if ever the Lakers needed Bynum to earn his keep, it is right now. Jordan Farmar tore the miniscus in his knee and could be out up to eight weeks depending on the outcome of further tests and examinations.
So, without Farmar, 35 year-old Derek Fisher had to play over 41 minutes and Kobe Bryant over 42 minutes against Orlando and accounted for 68 of the team’s 103 points.
Most of those points came in the first three quarters. By the fourth quarter, both Bryant and Fisher were dead tired. Meanwhile, Bynum’s walking around with a smirk on his face and five personal fouls.
It could very well be that Bynum has a serious case of Kamanitis. That is a disease characterized by extreme lethargy and lack of exertion brought about by a deep-rooted sense of unbelievable security.
The Clippers Chris Kaman exhibited the disease two years ago following a very productive season that landed him a five-year, $52.5 million contract.
Since the Clippers and the Lakers share the Staples Center, it is very possible that Bynum somehow contracted the disease from Kaman.
Unfortunately, like the flu and the common cold virus, there is no known cure for the disease. Once a player has “contracted” it, the team just has to wait until the disease works its way through the players system, and a sense of personal pride finally kicks in.