The good Andrew Bynum and the bad Andrew Bynum both surfaced on Wednesday night.
The Lakers All-Star center had a game for the ages against the San Antonio Spurs, pulling down a franchise record 30 rebounds and scoring 16 points in a season-defining 98-84 victory over a team the Lakers could meet in the playoffs. Bynum became only the fifth player in team history with a 30-rebound game, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan and Elgin Baylor.
The game has become the signature feat of Bynum’s rise to All-Star status this season, a season in which he is enjoying career highs in points (18.4) and rebounds (12.2).
But as good as Bynum has been on the court, his off-the-court antics have been equally mind-boggling. After his record-setting night against the Spurs, Bynum had a momentarily lapse on live TV when he dropped a curse word during an interview with KCAL reporter Mike Trudell.
When Trudell asked Bynum about his epic game, the 24-year-old could only think about his 7-for-20 shooting from the field. “I shot the ball like shit, man, so it’s bothering me,” Bynum said.
Dropping the word “shit” on TV is just the latest in a long line of immature and bizarre behavior from Bynum. Earlier in the season, he took an ill-advised 3-pointer against the Golden State Warriors on March 27 that resulted in a benching. He reacted to the benching like an 8-year-old when he vowed to “do it again.”
On April 6, Bynum cost his team a win against the Houston Rockets when he lost his cool and was ejected in the second half after picking up two technical fouls.
Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson recently wrote an email to the Los Angeles Times defending his former pupil, and even taking the media to task. Jackson said: “Bynum is not quite mature, but everyone should relax and watch him grow up. This year has been a big step for him offensively…nice to see…and when he takes up the mantle as defensive captain the Lakers can get back in the hunt.”
The Lakers have been watching Bynum “grow up” since the team selected him in 2005 draft. To date, it was the biggest and most significant move made by owner Jim Buss, who took over the reigns and day-to-day operations of the team after his father, Jerry Buss, decided to take a more low-key approach.
Bynum is Jim Buss’ golden egg. He considers the 7-foot center – who came to the Lakers as an unproven 17-year-old with loads of potential but a penchant for getting hurt – as an untouchable player.
With the owner clearly in his corner, Bynum feels bulletproof and isn’t afraid to speak his mind or throw tantrums. The Lakers are going to have to take Jackson’s advice and just wait for him to grow up.