Andrew Bynum was once considered one of the top centers in the league, and there were even arguments made that he was better than Dwight Howard.
That was just two years ago. Now, Bynum is out of shape and out of work.
The 26-year-old former Western Conference All-Star was traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers after just 24 games to the Chicago Bulls, who then waived the big fella to avoid paying him guaranteed money this season. So far, nobody is jumping in line to grab him off the waiver wire.
“I wouldn’t pick him up this year,” TNT’s David Aldridge said on NBA TV. “I would bring him in and say ‘we have an interest in you, but we’re not gonna try to work you in the next two months.’ [Teams] have to look him in the eye and ask him if he really wants to play basketball. That’s really the only question that matters here.”
The Cavs couldn’t wait to run Bynum out of town, and it wasn’t because he had the knees of a senior citizen. The main issue centered around Bynum’s petulant behavior. The team suspended him one game on Dec. 28 for conduct detrimental to the team and then excused him from all team activities after some disruptive behavior at practice.
Immaturity has been Bynum’s problem ever since he entered the league at 17 — the youngest ever to suit up in an NBA game. The Lakers coddled him during his first couple of seasons, even hiring the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to teach him the finer points of the center position. The two worked closely for four years until Bynum decided Kareem’s services will no longer be needed.
After the Cavs traded Bynum, Abdul-Jabbar said he could understand why the Cavs would be hesitant to trust Bynum.
Abdul-Jabbar wrote on his Facebook page:
I believe Andrew has always had the potential to help a team when he puts his heart into it. He just doesn’t seem to be consistent with his commitment to the game. That can lead to a lot of frustration for any team that has signed him.
When I worked with Andrew I found him to be bright & hardworking but I think he got bored with the repetitive nature of working on basketball fundamentals day in and day out… but they are the keys to long term success.
In my opinion Andrew is the type of person who walks to the beat of “a different drummer”. So we won’t know the facts until Andrew decides to tell us what actually is the issue and shares his thoughts.
Two years ago, Bynum could get away with cutting corners because he was relatively healthy. But when his knees began to deteriorate, so did his interest in the game. Bynum is not willing to put in the extra work to be great.
The Philadelphia 76ers mortgaged their future in Bynum and are now paying for it dearly. He even cost Doug Collins his job. The Sixers basically gave up All-Star Andre Iguodala because they thought Bynum would be their centerpiece. Unfortunately, Bynum’s knees became a major problem and he never played a single game for Philly.
The Cavs gave Bynum a second chance during the offseason, but they were smart enough to give themselves an out clause.
Eventually, some team will take a shot at Bynum despite all the baggage he brings. He’s a 290-plus pound 7-footer with natural back-to-the-basket skills, and most teams would die to have a center like him.
It it worth the gamble? That’s the question teams have to ponder.
Joel Huerto is editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.