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Ball Don't Lie

Andrew Bynum is working hard and looking forward to his eventual comeback in Cleveland. He swears.

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Andrew Bynum, a week before starting his Cleveland-styled recovery work (Getty Images)

We’re going to encourage you to take two aspirin, or at least prepare a cold compress, before reading this column. Reading this column will encourage your eyes to involuntarily roll several times during the course of the comprehension, and if you use contact lenses and are able to read the text without them, we also encourage you to remove those.

Andrew Bynum is “good,” and he’s shooting to come back to play NBA basketball this fall!

In an exclusive interview with Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, making his first comments since his introductory press conference, the new Cleveland Cavaliers center swears he’s well on his way in terms of rehabilitation, while hoping to suit up for the first time since May, 2012. From the chat:

"I moved here a week after the press conference, I've been here ever since -- day in and day out just working,'' he said, referring to the team's practice facility. "I'm there, focused. I'm doing everything I can do to get back. That's what all this is all about for me right now. I just want to play."

Sounds promising. And then there’s this addition from Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant:

"We've been very impressed with Andrew's work ethic and diligence in this process,'' Grant said. "He's doing everything possible to get back on the court as quickly as he can.''

This is marvelous news, and completely unlike anything we read coming from hopeful Philadelphia 76ers front office types last season. Actually, scratch that. This is exactly what we heard from hopeful Philadelphia 76ers front office members last year. Throughout the year, always with the Bynum carrot dangling in their faces.

At this point, interviews like these have become just about muscle memory for Andrew Bynum, as evidenced by what should be the go-to quote from this Schmitt-Boyer’s interview:

"It's a fluid process,'' Bynum said. "I have no idea what the schedule's going to be for me. But I'm doing everything I can to be ready.”

Andrew Bynum talked up the fluid process endlessly last season, while pointing out that he had no firm timetable on a 76ers “return” that never actually happened. Bynum missed the entire season, pocketing nearly $17 million along the way, working through knee injuries that were no doubt exacerbated by deciding to go bowling early in his rehab.

(We understand that mentioning the bowling escapade is a typical jerk sportswriter move, but think about this. Bynum has had knee issues for years, and was on the shelf working through his latest surgery recovery when he presumed that participating in a quick-stop sport – one that requires a 7-foot, nearly 300-lb. man top come to a complete stop on a dime to toss a bowling ball while on the company’s dime – would be a good idea.)

The contract situation in Cleveland appears to be the only thing that is turning out differently this time around. You’ll recall that Bynum praised the Philadelphia training staff as well, with 76ers brass praising his recovery work along the way, so it isn’t as if Bynum and the Sixers had a contentious relationship on public record (though that didn’t stop the CEO from apologizing for the Bynum folly once the relationship ended). Chris Grant has set up a sound enough deal, and a solid enough rebuilding program (even if we don’t agree with his coaching choices) to allow Andrew “Takin’ My Sweet Time” Bynum to live up to the nickname I just gave him.

Bynum is only on the books for $6 million this year, around the league’s average salary, with an extra $6 million to be tossed in if he passes a litany of incentives and statistical (remember, actual games and minutes are statistics) hallmarks. If he’s at all worth the trouble, the Cavs have the team option for another $12.5 million next year. So if Bynum games the Cavaliers the same way he gamed (as opposed to “played,” because he didn’t play) the 76ers, he’ll only receive $6 million of the two-year, $24.5 million deal that was reported.

Of course, if Bynum is honest about his “I just want to play”-intentions, then we needn’t worry. Because we want Andrew Bynum to play as well.

The man is a high-efficiency, multi-talented scoring center that can dominate a game. Unlike other top centers like Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah, Andrew does his best work with the ball in his hands, scoring from either block, showcasing a set of skills that has been in short supply in the NBA in the modern age.

It’s those skills, and that big man frame, that have done him in. Yes, there have been criticisms regarding his rehab process dating back several years before he was traded to Philadelphia, but sadly it’s been proven time and time again that most 7-footers working at Bynum’s speed aren’t long for the modern game. The wear and tear is in no way comparable to what centers with Bynum’s skill set from the 1970s and 1980s had to go through.

It helps you appreciate those that have survived. And hopefully, should he come back in top form, it’ll help us appreciate Andrew Bynum more.

He has to come back in top form, first. It’s a fluid process.

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