Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tells Andrew Bynum that 'it's all about the temples.' (Getty Images)
It wasn’t surprising to hear that the Cleveland Cavaliers were set to part ways with Andrew Bynum on Saturday morning, the oft-injured center has been up and down during his cameo appearances with the team, and Cleveland plays far better without him on the court. What was surprising was the news that Bynum had been suspended with pay indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team,” with one source telling Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski that Bynum “doesn’t want to play basketball anymore.”
The Cavs are no doubt shopping Bynum, aware that his large contract (over $12 million) could bring back some significant talent from a team looking to cut payroll, as a team can send out a batch of salaries that approximate Bynum’s year-long total and then release Bynum prior to Jan. 7, only having to pay about half of his yearly salary and cutting free the final year of his 2014-15 deal.
No teams are looking to add Bynum as a go-to rock in the low post, as he was in Los Angeles with the Lakers, and was expected to be by the Philadelphia 76ers last season. The fact that Bynum has played just 480 inconsistent NBA minutes since the spring of 2012 is giving credibility to the idea that Andrew Bynum just doesn’t like the game of basketball.
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.
Bynum won’t be sharing his thoughts any time soon, though. He’s hoping against hope that some team will deal for him and pick up his contract option, even though that’s unlikely, and that he’ll be able to make the full $24.79 million he’s potentially owed on the contract he signed with Cleveland last summer.
What’s more likely is Bynum either being sent to a team for cap relief, immediately waived, and then hoping to make good once again on a minimum deal with a team looking for help in the middle. Last time we looked around the league, “a team looking for help in the middle” includes all 30 NBA teams, but most will be scared off in having to coddle the potential All-Star and work through his myriad knee (and, apparently, attitude) issues.
If Andrew Bynum doesn’t much enjoy playing basketball, that’s just fine. It’s actually to be appreciated, if he were to walk away from a game he could potentially dominate just because it doesn’t make him as happy as other pursuits. The problem with the current setup is that Bynum is signing contracts and looking to extend a lifestyle that screams, “hey, I love basketball!” He can’t have it both ways, though he’s attempted and mostly succeeded (until Jan. 7, at least) having it both ways throughout a career that made him nearly $75 million dollars (assuming he’s cut and re-signed to a minimum deal) since 2005.
If he’s traded to and picked up by another team with the assurances of playing time, then he needs to show up as a professional. According to the Cavaliers, he was failing in this regard in Cleveland – though the fact that Bynum is still being paid speaks to the nebulous collectively bargained rules regarding “conduct,” as the Players Association could (rightfully) fight the designation were he suspended without pay.
When Bynum was drafted in 2005, returning Lakers coach Phil Jackson was charged with coaching the developing young talent out of high school, a big man that turned 18 just days before the 2005-06 season started.
On Twitter over the weekend, Jackson stood up for his former center:
I’m reluctant to judge ABynum’s bball intent. He is a man of many interests and has a life outside of bb, but he does like to compete.
— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) December 29, 2013
Bynum enjoyed his best seasons under Jackson and Abdul-Jabbar, and the fact that they have different social media takes on his descent is telling. Jackson got to feed off of Bynum’s raw goods during games, showcasing that fantastic scoring touch on either block down low.
Abdul-Jabbar, meanwhile, had to toil in one-on-one practice sessions away from the spotlight. If Bynum was sleepwalking through those, then that was probably quite the chore for the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
What we do know is that Bynum is going to have to make a decision soon. If he doesn’t much care for dragging Roy Hibbert and Chris Bosh up and down the court for 30 minutes a night, that’s understandable. He can’t continue to pretend like he does and expect to get paid for it, and then not bring the goods.
We don’t expect a decision from Bynum any time soon. He’s going to attempt to grab that next contract.
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