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The Curious Case of Andrew Bynum

Andrew Bynum is dominating on the court, but his attitude on and off of it is puzzling at times. 

Photo by Jeff Lewis

Dwight Howard has been the best big man in the game for some time now, but Bynum is getting close to taking that title from him.  Photo by Jason Lewis

Article originally published by the Los Angeles Sentinel. www.lasentinel.net

By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor (2010-2013)

The Lakers center is on the verge of becoming a super star, but his behavior at times leaves people scratching their heads.

Can anybody figure out Andrew Bynum?  His first taste of the spotlight has produced some strange results.  Dominant play mixed with ejections, out of character shot selection, and a defiant attitude.

For years the Lakers center’s potential has made him a great trade commodity, and fans and media were waiting for a blockbuster deal that would land the team a super star player in return.  But the Lakers management stayed the course with Bynum, even though he was not playing up to his potential.

This year has finally been the year when Bynum’s production has finally met his potential, and he is not just one of the best big men in the game, an argument can be finally made that he is the best big man playing today, even better than the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard. 

At this point it is laughable to even think that the Lakers would give up Bynum and another player (most likely Pau Gasol), for Howard.  That would have been a steal for the Magic, who would get two All-Stars for one. 

Bynum has always been a more complete player than Howard, but what Howard had to give, he gave that every single night, while Bynum was always inconsistent due to injuries and at times what appeared to be a lack of effort.  

Bynum is putting in the effort, he has been healthy for the entire season, and it would be hard to argue that Howard is better.  Even if an argument can be made in Howard’s favor, there is no way that he is better than Bynum and Gasol. 

But Bynum just can’t seem to put it all together.  As his production has been praised, a lot of focus has been put on his maturity, or as many believe, a lack there of. 

The high notes of Bynum’s season is a 30 rebound game, which was followed by a 30 point game, but the low points was getting ejected from two games with a bad attitude, and being benched by head coach Mike Brown for shooting a 3-point basket in a close game.

Bynum has shrugged off the attitude issues, which can be viewed as a sign of having an attitude problem.  His reasoning behind shooting a 3-pointer was pretty weak, as he said that he was expanding his game, and that people who do not play basketball should not tell him how to play the game.  He seems to be the only one who believes that he does not have an attitude issue. 

Bynum has not only shrugged off his critics, but he has not hid his attitude toward Brown, as he has blown off his coach as well.  Even after being benched he said that he looks forward to taking more 3-point shots (he has not followed through on that yet). 

There have been signs of conflict between Bynum and Brown, as the big man alluded to the coach making a point when Brown sat Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter of a close game.  The very next game Bynum took his 3-point shot and was benched himself. 

The Lakers later fined Bynum for blowing off a meeting with General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who simply wanted to get on the same page with him. 

The past few months have been odd for Bynum, but at the same time he has shown that the Lakers cannot win without him. 

In the first five games since losing Bryant to a shin injury, Bynum has averaged 22 points and 16.6 rebounds per game.  Those numbers tops Howard’s, who has averaged 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds per game for the season.

Howard is the focal point of the Magic’s offense, which allows him to score more points.  Bynum has been the second option all season, and Gasol gets his touches as well, which has kept Bynum’s numbers down to 18.6 points per game. 

But without Bryant, Bynum is shouldering more of the load, which has allowed him to score more points.  But the only area where Bynum’s numbers are down is his shooting percentage.  For the season he has shot 55 percent from the floor as the second and sometimes third option.  But now that he is the focal point in the offense, he may be scoring more points because of more opportunities, but he has drawn a lot more attention from defenses, which has caused his shooting percentage to drop to 41 percent, which is not good for a big man.

The complaint about Bryant has always been that he takes too many shots, but with him out of the lineup, Bynum is taking a lot more shots.  Since Bryant has been hurt, Bynum has averaged 21.4 shots per game, and he has had games with 27 and 24 shots.  He has shot the ball 20 or more times in three out of the five games.  For the season he has averaged only 13.3 shots per game.  In the first 56 games of the season he only had two games where he shot the ball 20 times.  Now he has taken 20 or more shots in three out of five games. 

However the numbers are crunched, and however Bynum’s mood swings are going, there is no question that the Lakers need him to come up big if they plan on competing for a title.  They did not need him much to win their last two championships, but Bryant is a little older, as is Gasol, and Phil Jackson is gone. 

Bynum is finally an All-Star, and there is no way that this team can win games without him being a key part of their plans. 

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