You might as well cover your ears every time news of Andrew Bynum rolls around. NBA fans should get used to hearing about the ailing knees of the 23-year-old with what seems to be a 30-year-old body.
Bynum made an appearance at the Lakers’ media day wearing the new, lighter uniform but it will be the last time LA fans see him sporting the look for another two months. Only a day after revealing that the young center would miss the first few games, head coach Phil Jackson broke some more bad news when he announced that Bynum would be out until the end of November.
Drafted tenth overall by the Lakers in the 2005, I doubt they had planned for Bynum to only play in a total of 274 games in his five years in the league. He was limited to 35 games in the 2007-08 season after partially dislocating his knee. He only played 50 games in 2008-09 due to a torn ligament in his right knee.
Now, he is being told not to put any serious weight on the knee and is being forced to workout on a stationary bicycle, upper-body weights and light walking. His injury record is just building and building as he has only played one complete season in his entire career (2006-07).
Last season, Bynum started and played in 65 games and his stats rose significantly. His minutes per game rose as well to over 30 and the Lakers won the finals. However, after looking closely, the big man was inconsistent in the playoffs as LA matched up against faster opponents in Oklahoma City and Phoenix. When the team faced the slower, more methodical Celtics in the Finals, he contributed even less.
It’s a story of an overhyped center that has never really paid off at all for LA. He is a prime example of why the league no longer drafts players out of high school alongside Sebastian Telfair and Shaun Livingston. He joins the ranks of high-drafted centers that just fell short with such company as Greg Oden. It has not been pretty at all.
The Lakers gambled when they drafted him and it really looks like they came up snake eyes. There is an obvious lack of depth at the five in LA as the team is looking to start 37-year-old Theo Ratliff. Drew Naymick will be the backup for the defending champions.
We have seem them fight hard before without Bynum by utilizing Pau Gasol as a defender in the lane but his abilities there are lacking. The Lakers do have good defenders in Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant and Matt Barnes but they will not be able to defend the league’s bigger players.
It could actually turn out to be a big deal for the Lakers as they start the season off against some good frontcourts. Sacramento has DeMarcus Cousins, Portland has Marcus Camby, Milwaukee has Andrew Bogut, Indiana has Danny Granger and Chicago has Joakim Noah. Lamar Odom, Artest and Bryant will have their hands full and these teams will prove challenging to a team so shallow with its big guys.
In addition, just because he is set to come back at the end of November does not mean that he will be fully healthy or that he will not re-injure his knee. He is a fragile player and Jackson has to know it too. The franchise needs to reexamine having Bynum on the team if it wants to take itself seriously against some big names in the East and compete for another title.