He’s got the fat contract (a four-year, $57 million extension that kicked in this season), the impressive measurables (7-feet, 285 pounds), and the Hall of Fame mentor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). But other than some inconsistent runs where he occasionally looks like a legit beast, Andrew Bynum hasn’t done enough to show he should be the future centerpiece of the L.A. Lakers.
Injuries have been the biggest problem. For each of the last three seasons, Bynum has missed significant chunks of the schedule due to knee and Achilles ailments. And after sitting out the last month of this regular season with an Achilles strain, the 22-year-old suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee during the Lakers/Thunder series that limited him to just 24 minutes in Game 1 against Utah and will at least require offseason surgery, if not season-ending surgery sooner. It hasn’t been as bad for Bynum as it’s been for, say, Greg Oden, but he’s not exactly A.C. Green, either.
With current L.A. icon Kobe Bryant famously grinding through injuries all over his body, the idea that the fragile Bynum is being eyed to eventually take over the headline spot for the League’s marquee franchise doesn’t even fit. Solid future All-Star center? Sure. The Franchise for the Lakers? So far he’s not reliable enough. From today’s Los Angeles Times:
It looked more and more as if Bryant and Bynum switched places on the health meter, the 31-year-old guard saying he was “very encouraged” by how his right knee felt, while the 22-year-old center accepted the facts of his growing medical file.
“I guess I am kind of injury-prone,” said Bynum, who missed 32 games last season, 47 in 2007-08 and 17 games this season before sustaining a pain-inducing tear in cartilage in his right knee last week.
His jumping ability was affected in the Lakers’ Game 1 victory and there probably won’t be any improvement until he gets surgery.
“It’s the same as it was,” said Bynum, who had eight points and 10 rebounds. “It’s going to be that way until I get it cleaned out.”
Season-ending surgery is an option if it worsens, but Bynum will continue to play though the discomfort, which he described as a sharp pain because “bones are against each other.”
“Cutting and jumping and landing and pushing off is where I feel it, but running in a straight line is not bad at all,” he said.
Even with Bynum playing hurt, the Lakers still have the frontcourt advantage against the Jazz, who are missing starting center Mehmet Okur and 6-9 forward Andrei Kirilenko due to their own injuries. Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom each grabbed double-digit rebounds in Game 1, while Gasol scored 25 points. Game 2 is tonight.
The Lakers proved they can win a championship without much help from Bynum, as they did last year when injuries and foul trouble had him on the bench for much of the NBA Finals win over Orlando. Apparently they don’t need Bynum to be a star this year, either. But if he’s supposed to be The Future, when is Bynum going to take the next step and produce on a consistent basis?
* Kobe talked about his, um, interesting photo shoot with Los Angeles Times Magazine, where he donned a handful of all-white outifts and had this Willy Wonka, E.T., misguided-fashion-maven thing going.
“They’re a little too artsy for me,” Kobe told the L.A. Times, adding that he didn’t like the “Babyface” look the stylist gave him, but admitted he had fun.
When a reporter asked whether Kobe would prefer his all-white Diddy party shoot or the infamous Alex Rodriguez Details shoot where A-Rod was kissing himself in the mirror, Kobe said, “The one that has four rings. Then I can tell everybody to kiss my…”