Andrew Bynum was released by the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, a move that seems typical of Bynum’s recent career arc, but one in which its placement (on a game day, with the Pacers fighting to tie up their second round series on Wednesday evening) made it all the more curious. The Pacers picked Bynum up midseason after he was traded from Cleveland and cut from the Chicago Bulls, hoping to shore up their frontcourt with the former All-Star, thinking that he could provide scoring depth off the bench in reserve of All-Star center Roy Hibbert.
Things didn’t exactly turn out well for the player or team. And now we’ve learned that the Pacers, in such a rush to sign Bynum last winter, did not even require the oft-injured center to take a physical before joining his fifth team in one and a half years. From Candace Buckner at the Indianapolis Star:
The Pacers, who did not administer a physical to Bynum until after he signed the contract, had initially entered this relationship with high hopes. Though at times, players and coaches tempered their excitement due to Bynum's long history of health issues.
"This is what we signed up for," Vogel said during the days leading up to Bynum going on the inactive list indefinitely. "We knew he was a great player with some problem-area knees, (who was) going to be in some times and out some times. We're fully aware of that and we'll be excited whenever we have him in uniform."
Buckner went on to corroborate a story that Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski first reported in January, that Andrew Bynum was cut from the Cleveland Cavaliers for chucking the ball at mid-court during Cavs practices. No such reported hijinks took place with the Pacers, whose shootarounds are sometimes visible to the public at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but it was pretty telling that the team would decide to part ways with Bynum in the midst of a playoff series.
The guy wasn’t even playing, he’s on record as being just about as inconsiderate as they come, he decided to wear his knees out by hitting the bowling alley (breaking knee cartilage along the way) while being paid tens of millions by the Philadelphia 76ers to rehab, he’s firing 47-foot shots during practice, and now the Pacers want him to go away from a team he’s not even receiving minutes from.
Connect your own dots. Also, Andrew Bynum was paid nearly $24 million to play in exactly 26 games over the last two seasons, with three teams that now want nothing to do with him.
The idea that Bynum cast some sort of pall over his latest team – we don’t usually like going down these pseudo-science, sportswriter-hack levels, but it’s worth considering. The Pacers won two games after signing the big man to extend their record to an NBA-best 39-10 at the time, but the squad infamously managed just a 17-16 record along the way. Again, Bynum barely played and wasn’t all that bad when he did contribute – 23 points and 19 rebounds in 36 minutes spread out over two games – but does it do something to a player’s psyche when your general manager basically concludes that you’re not enough? That Roy Hibbert could use a little help?
Then there’s the too-easy angle of Hibbert contributing perhaps his best game of the season in the hours after Bynum’s release.
A childish, overpaid and team-destroying player, underachieving with All-Star talent before being cut for the second time in a season. A months-long swoon in the face of underdog opponents. The rebirth of an actual All-Star directly after the petulant player is asked to leave. This is the stuff that newspaper columnists dream of.
Because a physical is such a minor procedure, it does boggle as to why Pacer brass decided against it, but it does bear reminding that there was actually a bit of an arms race surrounding Bynum’s services last winter.
Chicago cut the big center after dealing with Cleveland to acquire him only because they were looking to avoid the luxury tax and tank their way out of a playoff berth (why else would you trade a former All-Star midseason for no on-court compensation, Chicago?), but the rest of the league was pretty high on the idea of big ball beating the Miami Heat. And if the Pacers were of the opinion that the Heat were going to nab a suddenly-healthy and motivated Bynum to bang against Roy Hibbert come May and June (something Heat executives have denied), then it makes sense that Larry Bird and company would sign off on bringing Andrew in sight-unseen.
I mean, you kind of know what you’re getting with him – his knees are shot, but he can still score and rebound around the rim. Don’t need no doctah to tell you that.
What’s now certain is that Bynum negatively affects a locker room. He hasn’t been beloved at any of his stops, but in his time with the Lakers that was sloughed off because of his production, and in his time with Cleveland and Philadelphia it was mostly ignored because of his potential when healthy.
We don’t know for sure what Bynum did to sour the situation in Indiana, and to what levels of sour-dom that he took things to. What we do know is that this is probably it for him, when it comes to NBA jobs.
Right? You still want to take a “low risk” flier on this guy? Come on.
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