The Andrew Bynum sweepstakes turned quiet for a short period. After eight teams expressed interest in the 2-time NBA champion center, the talks seemed to cool. I even expressed my displeasure in the thought of the Indiana Pacers bringing Bynum along for the title ride, solely based on his attitude in the past two seasons.
He’s likely to be finding a new home in the Indianapolis area, however.
According to Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star, the 7-foot center visited the city on Friday, as he and his agent met with the Pacers to discuss future plans.
As of Friday night, no direct agreement has been made regarding a contract. Bynum’s agent, David Lee, stated “(Bynum) has not signed as yet.”
Everyone expects the agreement to be announced formally, however, as the Pacers have been fully open about their desire for Bynum to join the second unit.
Another marquee name that has expressed exploratory interest in Bynum is the Miami Heat, who are still reluctant on the decision to bring him to South Beach. While Miami does currently have their $5 million midlevel exception available, they certainly can’t avoid the fact that they’re already going to pay more than $15 million in luxury taxes. If they had pulled the trigger on Bynum, Miami would have been forced to pay a $2.50 penalty for each dollar they paid the free agent big man without trading a current player.
Analysts, including myself, have been somewhat wary on the decision to implement Bynum into a Pacers’ locker room that has consistently proven to be the most cohesive and short of problems.
Bynum’s last two gigs, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers, fell apart for numerous reasons. Above all else, were the injuries and off the court issues.
With Philadelphia, Bynum could never get his knees rehabilitated after undergoing Orthokine treatments on both. The treatments were used to facilitate the healing for his arthritis. Bynum didn’t suit up for the 76ers, which made his initial press conference that much more enjoyable in retrospect.
In Cleveland, Bynum finally hit the hardwood, and provided the fans and critics with a bag of mixed emotions. In 24 games played (19 of them being starts), Bynum did average just 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, while playing 20 minutes per game and shooting an underwhelming 41.9 percent from the field. On the other hand, there were five instances this season in which Bynum posted at least 15 points.
Isn’t that what the Pacers are asking him to do? An important aspect to understand is that they’re not searching for a dominant center to start numerous games. Indiana is hunting for themselves a formidable frontcourt option to polish the bench. That’s exactly what Bynum can, and will, do.
Current backup center, Ian Mahinmi, is still the more athletic, quicker option in the middle. Defensively, Mahinmi has properly filled in for the best rim protector in basketball, Roy Hibbert. Unfortunately, his numbers aren’t going to strongly support that fact that he’s a serviceable center in the middle. This season, Mahinmi has put together averages of 3.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks per contest, while playing 16 minutes per game off the bench. Most of Mahinmi’s impact, however, comes from just his presence. Often how I explain to people that Hibbert’s ability to just contest everything the opposition brings into the paint is more important than his block statistics, the same goes for Mahimni.
I’m now 100 percent convinced that Bynum’s attitude issues will resolve on their own once he becomes a part of the Pacers’ culture. This is a management staff, led by Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh, and Kevin Pritchard, that have made a ton of correct basketball decisions in the last few years, and rarely any mistakes. This is a coaching unit consisting of Frank Vogel and long-time NBA coach Nate McMillan, and one that isn’t going to allow one free agent to step in the way of their goal; a navy and gold championship banner.
Coming off the bench for the Pacers, Bynum could surely assist Indiana’s second unit, which ranks 26th in the NBA in terms of point production in the second unit. That’s one of the few big issues this team has battled all season, as Danny Granger is yet to return to the form Indiana fans have hoped. Look for some of the pressure to be relieved off the starting unit, as well as C.J. Watson and Luis Scola, since they have been forced to supply enough points to give Indiana a chance against the Western Conference’s highest scoring teams.
Even if it’s a small contribution for just 14, 18, or even maybe 20 minutes a night, Indiana will begin to feel a bit more dangerous when Bynum gets chances in the paint. He just better pray he brings his defensive A-game if he indeed signs, because that’s the commonality all the current Pacers have; they all focus on getting stops every trip up the floor. Not one player on this Pacers squad is a one dimensional player, and Bynum will have to fit that profile.
On another note, it’s almost becoming comedy. Who would have thought the question of “Who will win the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals” would come down to the deciding factors of Andrew Bynum …. or Greg Oden?