If we’re not careful we might have a serious tragedy on our hands. The Andrew Bynum bandwagon has reached standing room only status and is going full speed, positively careening out of control. Just about everyone in Laker-land, and even some bandwagon hoppers in other cities around the league, have jumped on the broad shoulders of the Lakers’ 7 foot tall, 275 pound phenomenon and is enjoying the ride. They all better be careful though, lest overconfidence creeps into the unassuming 20-year-old and he comes crashing down under the pressure.
As it is with the reactionary sports media in our great land, Bynum’s 28 points and 12 rebounds performance recently against the Phoenix Suns was reason enough to put the kid on an undeserved and all-to-early pedestal. See stories like this, or this one. Really Stan McNeal of Sporting News, do you really think Bynum is the third best center in the league? Apparently, jumping on the Andrew Bynum bandwagon can also turn its riders irrational and delusional at the same time.
The fact is that Andrew Bynum on the season is averaging 12.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Solid numbers, but also unspectacular ones for sure. There are a quite a few centers around the leagus putting up similar, or better, numbers. Want to take a guess as to who they are? How about Marcus Camby averaging 8.8 points, 14.2 boards and 3.6 blocks? Or Chris Kaman averaging 18.3 points, 13.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks? Or Samuel Dalembert at 11 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game? Or even Andris Biedrins, who is averaging 10.7 points, 9.7 boards and 1.4 blocks? We could go on and name at least 3-4 other centers in the L playing just as well as Mr. Bynum. And, then there’s the issue of how Bynum is accumulating those numbers. If you’ve watched any number of Lakers games you know that most of Bynum’s points come from offensive put-backs and alley-oop dunks – hardly the work of one of the 3 best centers in the league. His back-to-the-basket game is still remedial at best.
So, having said all that let us be the first to ease on the brakes and slow this runaway bandwagon down. The reality is that while Andrew Bynum has shown a ton of promise and significant improvement this year, particularly at the ripe young age of 20, his game and his confidence has a long, long way to go. Let’s see Bynum try his alley-oop dunks in the playoffs, when defenses tighten up and the lane is protected like Fort Knox. Let’s see the relatively inexperienced Bynum drag pros like Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer up and down the court and hold his own in a seven game series. Let’s see Bynum produce in the real, sweat-it-out pressure situations during the playoffs.
Ladies and gentlemen, before we squeeze the accelerator and drive this bandwagon toward an inevitable crash, let’s give the kid some room to grow. Let’s make sure he knows that for the Lakers to be successful in the playoffs this year, one Mr. Odom, not Bynum, needs to be the second offensive option to Kobe Bryant. Let’s bring him along slowly this season, perhaps even moving him back to the bench from Kwame Brown returns from injury, and hope that media hyperbole doesn’t warp his fragile young mind. The Lakers playoff success, this season, and Bynum's continued development in years to come may depend on it.