The Los Angeles Lakers had until June 30, to exercise the contract option for next season for All-Star center Andrew Bynum, however the “Los Angeles Times” reported that the team decided not to wait and officially picked up the big man’s option on Monday. It remains to be seen however, whether the club will make a long-term committment to the big man, allow him to walk away at the end of the 2012-2013 campaign as a Free Agent or decide to trade him to another franchise before next season’s trade deadline. Bynum gets a reported $16.1 million for the upcoming campaign and will become an unrestricted Free Agent now.
After being riddled by knee injuries over the last few years, the Lakers starting center remained healthy this past season; which then turned into by far his best season since entering the Association. Bynum averaged a double-double for the entire season, scoring 18.7 points and grabbing 11.8 boards per contest. The fans voted him to be the starting center for the Western Conference All-Star squad, which was the first of his career.
Although he proved that could play at an elite level while healthy this season; he also proved that he has a way to go in the maturity department. The big man served a suspension his first four games of the season, due to a flagrant foul on guard Jose Juan Barea, who was still playing for Dallas at the time; in the Mavericks series last year.
The franchise hoped that the punishment the Association handed down would have taught their talented big man a lesson; however it seems to have not helped him at all this past campaign. He would gain national attention after he took an ill-advised trey as Los Angeles trailed the Golden State Warriors and his angry head coach Mike Brown, pulled him off the floor for the rest of the contest. Bynum told reporters his being taken out of the game would not stop him for taking that same shot in similar situations. The Lakers fined him $7500 and he did not repeat the shot attempt for the rest of the season.
A short time later, the center was back in the headlines when he sat on the bench; even though he was playing; when head coach Mike Brown called time outs in a contest against the New Orleans Hornets. When the media questioned his actions after the game, the Lakers big man said he was “getting my Zen on.”
Although Bynum did have a strong season in the pivot; he would have been just another good center in the Association, thirty, forty or 50 years ago. Russell, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Cowens, Malone and Olajuwon, would have eaten his lunch, each time their teams played the Lakers. It is a far different era today, as there is a dearth of pivot-players in the Western Conference; other than Marc Gasol, there is very little to choose from for West Coast fans to pick for their squad’s starting center.
If I had to make an educated-guess whether the Lakers sign their center to a long-term deal; my answer would be yes. The few quality players that will become able to explore the Free Market this summer, are mostly restricted Free Agents. So unless the team wants to trade Bynum this summer and then draw up an offer-sheet, that their team could not match; they are not going to be able to acquire someone with the talent Bynum possesses.
The other factor is, that the Lakers best player Kobe Bryant, likes Bynum and reminds the All-Star guard of himself when he was Bynum’s age. That could be the clincher right there, as the team will do most anything they can to keep Kobe happy.