Andrew Bynum still affects the Lakers, even from 2,300 miles away

(My latest from Silver Screen & Roll)
 
After an 80-minute workout, a sweat saturated Andrew Bynum talked to the Philadelphia media while staring straight through them. It was the same faraway look that he had given the Los Angeles media for seven years; a trained, halfhearted sense of etiquette that made him seem patiently aloof. In the Sixers training facility, Andrew was asked repeatedly about the state of his problematic knees, ones that had dampened his playing career from blossoming into full-on super-stardom. Talking with his usual tones of misplaced bemusement, Bynum said “I’ll definitely be back sometime this year, I’m focused on getting back and being right versus trying to rush.”
 
As sure as the first part of his statement was, the second seemed to be a very carefully placed caveat on what seemed like a guarantee. Drew’s statement was a conflicted as his hair that day, a brilliantly compelling skull half immaculately braided and half out of the Don King playbook. Less than two weeks later, Bynum found himself backtracking, admitting that he might not play at all this season. The Philadelphia 76ers season has been an abject disaster without the big man, falling almost completely out of the playoff picture.
 
It’s been strange to see Bynum give continuous updates himself on what seemingly should be a team issue. John Black, the Lakers PR czar, leads a tight-lipped operation out of Downtown L.A. and El Segundo, keeping roster-related information at a premium. Throughout Drew’s tenure as a Laker, the organization gave hazy updates on whatever their center’s latest malady was, keeping fans and the media speculating rather than dwelling. It’s a testament to just how strong a hand the Buss operation was when seeing just how much commotion Bynum has caused without stepping foot onto the court.
 
Considering that these injuries appeared during summer conditioning and bowling of all things doesn’t bode well for the big man.
 
Regardless of what’s coming out of the former lottery pick’s mouth, the bottom line is that the man hasn’t played a single minute of his new team’s 56 games this year. He has been sitting out with bone bruises in both knees, and battling chronic soreness and swelling. Bone bruises vary in severity and disability from person to person, but obviously with Bynum, the problem is more than just an inconvenience. He can’t yet do any physical activity without pain, which a salve of months-long rest was supposed to help heal. Worse yet, these latest injuries seem to be mostly non-contact based. Though he battled problems all throughout his Lakers career, Bynum’s medical absences were all tied to freak on-court contact injuries in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Considering that these injuries appeared during summer conditioning and bowling of all things doesn’t bode well for the big man. More than likely, Bynum’s enormous seven foot, near 300 pound frame simply isn’t equipped to withstand the rigors and stresses that an intensely physical NBA game places on him. There are some who speculate that he may never be able to play a full season ever again.
 
For the Lakers and their fans, watching Bynum’s erratic behavior from afar has been illuminating, comical, and sad usually all at once. With every ridiculous sound byte, we’re reminded that “close-out games actually aren’t that hard” and with every tale of season-ending bowling expeditions, we’re hearkened back to the days of Playmate chicken fights. Before August, we had been watching the world through a Bynum-colored lens, a distorted prism that rewards exceptional athleticism rather than personal responsibility. Without the nightly attachments of double-digit rebounds and a bevy of post moves, it’s amazing how inexcusable his behavior is.
 
(Peep the rest after the jump)

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