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Andrew, Injuries, and the Future

Yesterday afternoon, Mark Medina wrote a post about how Yao Ming’s early retirement should be taken as a lesson by Andrew Bynum, another promising center whose future career is still pretty much a question mark due to his injury history. From Medina’s post:

There are several lessons Bynum could take if he watched Yao Ming announce his retirement Wednesday in China after an accomplished nine-year career ended because of recurring injuries. Should Bynum be wary of a similar fate? Will Bynum’s career be cut short because of continuous trips to the trainer’s room to treat his wobbly knees? Will his legacy be tainted like Yao’s with wondering what Bynum could’ve accomplished had he stayed healthy? And will Bynum eventually need to adopt a plan the Rockets prescribed for Yao in which he wouldn’t play more than 24 minutes per game?

I’ve been of the pro-Bynum camp for some years now. However, recent history tells the story of the “challenges of building around a center vs. you need size to contend for rings” paradox. In recent years, the Mavericks, Lakers and Celtics have all been Finals champions by winning with size, but none of those teams were exactly built around a center. Dallas with Dirk, the Lakers with Kobe and the Celtics with Pierce.

Conversely, we’ve seen the Magic struggle to get over the conjectural hump with Dwight Howard as their centerpiece and Houston struggled even more with Yao always battling injuries. Even the Trailblazers know how hard it is to contend with an injury prone center with Greg Oden (and even Sam Bowie in ’84) spending a large majority of his young career on the sidelines.

So where do the Lakers go with Andrew Bynum?

It’s been clear that Jim Buss is willing to hold on to Bynum by any means necessary, but is it wise to focus the future of your franchise on a young center who has had his fair share of injuries? At this point, it’s hard to give a definite answer considering the fact that ‘Drew has shown flashes of absolute brilliance on both sides of the ball, and could make a legit claim to be the league’s second best center when healthy — but that qualifier is exactly what has a lot of us questioning whether or not Bynum is the future.

Without question, if you can have the best center in your conference in a league that has been dominated by size in recent years, you have to say yes. However, it doesn’t make sense to keep him if he’s going to spend more time in street close than on the hard wood. When the lockout ends, the Lakers are going to have a lot of minor roster questions to deal with, but the franchise’s big picture question about their future is surely whether or not they’re going to move forward with Bynum.

Last season, ‘Drew didn’t have any major injury issues. The optimists among us might point out the fact that he had a series of scary moments and nothing bad happened. On the flip side, some might wonder if that season was an outlier in a career that has shown trends of prolonged injuries. Obviously, time will tell whether or not he’s completely shaken the injury bug, and I hope he does — because if he happens to fulfill his potential, the transition after Kobe’s retirement would be a much easier one. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Lakers handle this situation and how Bynum handles his body. I’d hate for Bynum’s career to end in the same fashion as Yao’s.

Reader Interactions


  1. Should character also be a consideration here? Looking at Yao Ming’s personality off the court, one can easily conclude that he’s been a model spokesperson for his country, a classy individual, and possesses a deadpanned humor rarely seen.

    Physical injury comparisons aside, Andrew Bynum doesn’t even come close to Yao when this is looked at. Does it matter? I would say yes. It’s one thing to be within the average of the league in values and character, but it’s another to be consistently below: cheap shots to point guards in midair, parking in disabled parking spots, delaying surgery to enjoy his summer. All of these things do not contribute to overall team success.

    If Bynum wants to look at Yao Ming’s legacy, he should also look at how he conducts himself as an individual. As a Laker fan, I can only hope that one day he’ll grow up.


  2. “Last season, ‘Drew didn’t have any major injury issues. ”

    You mean aside from missing the first couple of months of the season with injury issues? Dude only played 54 games. Don’t know how many fewer you need to play in order to qualify has a “major” injury issue.

    I suppose you could say Drew didn’t have any major NEW injury issues, but again…54 games played says major injury issue to me personally. (Even if a couple of missed games were the lingering immaturity issue suspensions.)

    Given that he only plays about 28 minutes per game currently, he pretty much ALREADY only plays the 24 minutes per game mentioned from Medina’s post and it hasn’t helped. His career average is 24.18 minutes per game.

    This during the YOUNG phase of his career.

    I’m still in the “if a good deal comes along, you sell high NOW” with Bynum camp.


  3. It’s worth the gamble. Drew needs to strengthen his core plus the muscles around his knees, while doing other things to ease the load he carries…such as not letting his upper body get to muscle-bound, parking in handicapped spaces, etc.


  4. After last season are we still talking about Andrew’s injury history? While Andrew is not D. Howard – health wise – no other 7′ center is either (no Pau is not considered a center).

    The better question is the observation that no recent teams have been built around dominant centers. Of course you have to qualify the Mavs, because one can argue that Dirk didn’t win until he got a good defensive center behind him.

    The real point is that the Lakers need a dominant player developing as Kobe and Pau age. Right now Drew is that player and ownership really has no option but to hold on to him, while trying to find another superstar out there to lead their team. These superstar players just don’t grow on trees and the Lakers can’t plan on signing one in free agency. They may, but they can’t plan on it.

    While we are all jumping up and down about how mature Andrew is or isn’t, we should keep basic team building methodology in mind. Let’s not get too much like typical fair-weather fans.


  5. It’s all about his health. Without his injury history, it would be a no-brainer to build around Bynum. Character issues are overblown when it comes to Andrew.

    I have been a vocal critic of his cheap shots, and am hugely pissed at his recent parking space selection. However, Laker fans would do well not to overreact to these character issues in light of this team’s history with its’ (and possibly organization’s) best player. I don’t think there are too many people here who think the Lakers should have unloaded Kobe when his “issues” became apparent a few years back….

    If Andrew remains healthy, a compelling argument can be made that he has a great chance of being the best center in the NBA. You don’t trade that, and certainly not for guards or forwards. However, his history suggests that we can’t count on continued injury-free seasons (if you count this year as one). Based on that, I’d happily trade Bynum for Dwight Howard if such a deal were available.

    Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of trading Bynum now is to avoid the incredibly difficult decision of what to do when his contract is up. Do you make him (contractually) the centerpiece of the organization, only to risk having his career come to a sudden end (Yao-style)? Someone else will, for sure. If not, you can hope for a sign & trade deal at that time, but who knows what you’ll get in return–and letting him walk away without getting anything in return leaves you MUCH worse off.

    Perhaps the new CBA will make this decision easier in that guaranteed contracts might not be so huge (or existent), but if the next CBA looks anything like the last one re: guaranteed deals, the Lakers might be enticed into a trade sooner than later in order to avoid what will surely be a difficult decision….


  6. I have absolutely no issues with Bynum’s cheap shot. Nobody complained when Fish flattened Scola. You can argue that Fish was being a leader and that his flagrant foul gave the Lakers the taste of blood they needed to achieve that baserker focus to win it all. All that means is that Fish’s “cheap shot” worked while Drew’s was more an expression of frustration. I wish he had done it in game 2 of the series is all I would change about it. You watch any number of games from the 70’s on down to the Riley/SVG Knicks and you saw things a hell of a lot worse then Drew’s shots on Barea, Wallace and Beasley. That McHale clothesline of Rambis is an NBATV highlight, for god’s sake.

    Year after year, Drew has gotten better in spite of all the injury issues, and the injuries have gotten less and less severe. Unless we get Howard, I roll with the Big Joint. Whatever you think of his elbows and knees- size, touch, athleticism, and skill like he has do not come around that often.

    I think Messina’s style with big men will make a huge impact on Drew. Drew is a cerebral kid. The insight into his mind that the SI article illuminated, I think this shows us a guy who is not satisfied with a machine that works well. He wants to know how it works and understand how it can be made better. Messina should be able to help him with that.

    As to his focus on core strength and the muscles in his knees, that picture from him boxing seems to show the guns are still pretty big, but the rest of his body is looking very slim. Might be a good sign, Dude.


  7. I guess fans will always be looking for ‘the next big thing’.

    Thank goodness they have absolutely nothing to do with running any franchise.


  8. First, Yao was too big. Once you start getting to that kind of size, there’s too much that’ll break down on a hard court surface.

    I’d certainly hang onto Andrew and I agree with #7 about the so-called cheap shots. Some people seem to think it was fine when guys like Oakley, Mutombo, Alonzo and Ewing threw it around but not now, not with their team. I never really saw Bynum as an enforcer type but if he wants to play the card now and then, that’s okay.

    The odds are that he’ll get injured again… I’d just stockplie some minimum salary bigs to pad the position. I’m always hearing that about the dearth of quality bigs and it’s true at a certain level. Still, there’s plenty of guys out there who can fill a function.


  9. P. Ami – I find it funny that somebody would come onto a Lakers site to justify Bynum’s thuggish behavior by citing McHale’s takedown of Rambis! McHale was/is a putrid individual even if not a former Celtic; and a cheater as a GM in the bargain. Do you seriously think us Laker fans accept McHale as anything but an all-around creep? Geez, for that matter let’s excuse Bynum because Kermit Washington nearly killed Rudy T. At least in those latter cases, including Derek and Scola, the individuals were more or less the same size. Ever hear the expression “pick on somebody your own size?”

    In the case of Bynum in the Mavs series, he attacked the smallest person on the court. Impressive <— Sarcasm.


  10. Correction: Scola is about 35 #s heavier and 8 inches taller than Fisher, which doen’t harm my argument in the least.

    Let’s see ‘drew try to push Dwight Howard around the next time he gets “frustrated” and see how that works out.

    Yeah, P Ami I know the NBA was more violent in the 70s but so what? The NBA is less tolerent of violence on the court now and that’s a tremendous improvement. Don’t feel bad though, there’s still the NHL for people who enjoy watching goons do their thing.


  11. Last season is an argument against being able to trust Bynum’s health, not in favor of trusting it. As Jim C noted, he missed training camp and the first quarter of the season because of his injuries. From what we have been told, that had a negative impact on Gasol, which likely contributed to his sub-par season.

    At this point, though, it seems clear that management is going to try to build the future around him.


  12. Business wise the Lakers should trade Bynum, potential is a thing for the future with a big “If” he does not get injured. Are we going to bank our future on the big “If”? The next question is who among the teams can we trade Bynum? If we are going to trade Bynum we will be losing our strength of having Two towers on the floor with a luxury of having Lamar Odom coming from the bench. So if we are going to trade Bynum the popular suggestion from Laker fans would be Dwight Howard. Such trade of Bynum for Howard would be a great deal in favor of the Lakers. However, Orlando will not be dumb enough to trade D. Howard straigth for Bynum and we dont have any other important piece (I am thinking of Artest or LO) that we can afford to loose and bait Orlando to trade with us. So for me the trade suggestion of Bynum for Howard would only be a fantasy trade not going to happen. On the other hand, there is one BIG man that I think the Lakers can trade Bynum with. His name is Mark Gasol. He would be a perfect fit for the Lakers considering that for sure he would know his place on the team that he would only be the third or fourth option behind Kobe and Pau. Imagine having a full blood twin tower in our line-up. Mitch Kupchack has once made a great trade with Memphis when he acquired Pau Gasol, I do not see any impossibility of him entering into a similar trade and getting Mark Gasol play for the Lakers.


  13. Craig W.

    Just because not everyone shares your opinion on Bynum doesn’t make us “fair weather fans” or horribly misguided and stupid as your second post with the crack “thank goodness you guys ain’t running ****” implies.

    Nobody’s talking about getting rid of Bynum cheap or for nothing. Yes, he’s a real good center WHEN HEALTHY. That’s still the key point with Bynum and, after a season where he did only play 54 games, is still something worth talking about. Yes, he managed to stay healthy after being injured at the start of the year, but once again he only played 54 games and only average 28 minutes per game as a 24 year old kid.

    The names you hear talked about when you hear about Bynum trades are guys like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. Those are guys that, if you can get them back for an injury plagued center with maturity issues, you have to at least consider PARTICULARLY with us deciding to get rid of the triangle going forward.

    Word on the street is that our new offense is going to have a focus on a much more traditional point guard role. Think a Chris Paul would do well distributing to guys like Kobe, Gasol and Odom? Or if you could get Dwight Howard with Bynum as the centerpiece, isn’t that something that you HAVE to do?

    After all, if you’re talking about true superstar big men, doesn’t the list begin and end with Dwight?

    I’m hoping the “Bynum is untouchable” position of Jim Buss is just a negotiating position and that if a deal that really worked came along, he’d move Bynum for someone who is ALREADY a superstar given that we still refer to Bynum as a “potential” star after his 6th year in the league. (Only one of which he’s played more than 65 games in.)


  14. I’m pulling for Drew, and I have no problem with a well-placed hard foul – Fisher/Scola is a great example of a good one, and Rick Fox was a recent master of knowing when to lower the boom – but a shivy to the chest of someone half your size when your team is down by 30 in a closeout game? That’s just a stupid foul.

    It doesn’t help that said play resulted in a bonehead suspension of 5 games – which could be 10% of the season, if the last lockout is any guide.


  15. P. Ami, you have no issues with Bynum’s cheap shot against Barrea? Really? It took place in the final minutes of the last game of series sweep, thereby doing absolutely nothing to affect the outcome of the series. It got him suspended for the start of next season. It establishes his reputation among officials and the NBA league offices as a repeat offender who will be dealt with even more harshly in the future.

    Comparing what Andrew did to what Fisher did to Scola (another cheap shot, for sure) is asinine. Fisher did it early in the series, affected the style of play from that point forward, did not get himself thrown out, and was an out of character move (from the perspective of referees and league officials) that was not going to impact his reputation or earn him harsher penalties down the line. It also was a shot by the smallest Laker against one of the biggest Rockets.

    Look, I’m a Bynum fan, but just as my support for the Lakers doesn’t keep me from objectively analyzing (and criticizing) them, the kid is not beyond criticism from me when he messes up. If you can’t see the fault in what Andrew did in Dallas then you are wearing opaque purple & gold glasses. Surely those glasses don’t blind you to the completely classless and selfish move he made with his recent parking choices….


  16. The risk is simply too high. He has a “wide pelvis and is knock kneed”, has had multiple knee surgeries since high school, has achilles issues, and NEVER recovers on time. There is another Laker who has a history of slow recovery – Luke Walton, and the Lakers are still being haunted by his contract. Phil Jackson stated that if Bynum has another injury, he might become a “career situational player “, which is a frightening thought considering he will likely demand close to $20 M per year when his current contract expires. These red flags cannot be ignored. Bynum’s had a couple fluke injuries, but the damage resulting from those injuries are are no fluke. Although he had a good season, he is still not the explosive physical specimen he was in 2008, and might never be. The risk is too high to invest the team’s future on the health of his knees.


  17. I don’t appreciate either Plaschke blaming Bynum for going to the World Cup and delaying surgery. If I recall, Phil Jackson gave his blessing for Bynum to put off surgery to enjoy the games.

    And Plaschke’s comment about Pau getting tired… That’s just another example of how little effort Plaschke put into this column.

    Pau took the entire summer off. Sat on his behind and hung out, while Odom played all summer (and had one of his best seasons ever!).

    Pau is supposedly one of the smartest players in the league. If he couldn’t forsee that his minutes would be increased in the early part of the season because Kobe and Bynum were recuperating from injuries- then maybe he’s not as smart as he’s made out to be.

    Does everyone remember how Phil was gently suggesting after the first couple of weeks that Pau was having an MVP season? How much more babysitting does the guy need to realize how much PJ was depending on him?

    But he blew it – Big Time! And it’s one of the reasons why the lakers had an up and down season.

    Bynum is still a kid. By most accounts, he’s a very bright kid too. He’s going to make mistakes. The same ones. It’s human nature.

    And it’s a risk to hold onto him and make him the future of the Lakers. (At least that’s what it looks like. ) And when your leader is Jim Buss, I think you have a right to be worried. It’s very early, but he has not made a good impression with seasoned basketball writers who understand the game and many devoted fans.


  18. Mike Brown coached in San Antonio, Indy, and Cleveland. Each of those places ran different offenses. Each had different personnel. IMO, the Lakers will have an offense that will be built around their personnel. It will be in the direction Mike Brown likes to go, but it will emphasize the Laker strengths and try to cover up their weaknesses. That’s what good coaches do.

    Sure Mitch will try to fill in the weaknesses, but he will be unable to cover everything. That is just in the nature of things.

    Therefore, I think all this presumption that we will be much weaker with Mike Brown’s offense, because we have a weakness at PG seems sort of ‘chicken little’.


  19. #16 – point well taken, it was a stupid foul. Still, humiliating season-ending losses like that don’t always bring out the best behavior. Plus, JJ has a habit of driving to the hole without fear. It’s a good trait for him but it will result in getting hammered now and then. He has admitted as much and I’m not really sure why he felt the need to be going hard into the situation with the game already won. Ultimately, I don’t condone Andrew’s behavior. I agree that there’s a time and place for hard fouls and that wasn’t the place.

    Regardless of Howard/Bynum scenarios, I really hope we deepen our bench at the position. At this moment, it’s as thin as any time in recent memory (IMO).


  20. Are we really talking about character issues? Anyone remember some of the “character issues” the current Lakers franchise players has been through? So-called character issues aside, I’d take Bynum over Yao for the simple fact that he can still play professional basketball. For how long, we don’t know. But right now one guy is playing and the other guy is prematurely retired.

    If you are looking for basketball players to be model citizens before they can lead (or help lead) the team then maybe you shouldn’t follow pro basketball. If we had media microscopes available when guys like Magic Johnson and Jerry West were playing our opinions of them could be very different from what they are now. I remember a press conference years back where a journalist was going on an on about Kobe’s “immaturity” to Phil Jackson. Phil countered him with a simple question. “What were you like at 22 years old?” Maybe one day Bynum will be this stoic, Nelson Mandela/Abraham Lincoln hybrid some of you want. But right now he is not that guy and he is the only true center the Lakers have on their roster. If we want to worry about Bynum it is his knees that should concern us. I’ll let the team chaplain worry about his “character” issues.


  21. T. Rogers – I’m not looking for a stoic Mandela/Lincoln hybrid out there on the court.

    That sort of person could be helpful in renegotiating the CBA, however. Is this paragon available?


  22. Off topic, but the NBA All Stars led by Kobe himself just finished the first of two exhibition games here in the Philippines. As in any exhibition game, the score is not at all given importance (though it was 131-95). There was also a 3-pt shootout during halftime between two PBA All-Stars vs James Harden and CP3 which the NBA Stars won 26-25.

    The atmosphere was electric in the Big Dome and you could see that the NBA stars were genuinely excited, and played hard (led by playing coach KB24). CP3 even said during an in-game interview that he was amazed at how electric the atmosphere was and how crazy the fans are here in the Philippines.

    Javale McGee topscored for the NBA team with an array of dunks and alley-oops. Kevin Durant also gave a shooting clinic in the first half. Tyreke Evans also was hot from the outside, and Kobe was Kobe… playing hard, blocking shots, playing hard on both ends. Fish was also Fish… bricking wide open outside shots (I give him a pass on this as I know he has the new CBA on his mind).

    Most important of all, the NBA players gave the Philippines an amazing show, and they had fun doing it. I hope our FIlipino fans can post some game videos that all of us can watch in the coming days. Tomorrow, it will be the NBA stars versus the SMART-Gilas Team (Philippine National Team). The team was formed three years ago, composed of young players out of college, FIlipinos who grew up and played college ball in the US, and a naturalized Filipino (and former Laker draft pick Marcus Douthit) with the goal of qualifying for the London Olympics.

    It was surely a treat for us NBA and Basketball fans here in the Philippines!


  23. For all of Bynum’s injuries… He’s basically been as healthy as every other NBA Center the last few years minus Dwight Howard. Interesting note here is that Howard isn’t even seven feet tall.

    Taking a cheap shot at the end of a losing playoff series to a midget who has almost just single handedly killed your teams chances of a threepeet by embarrassing your PGs isn’t the worst thing a Lakers player has done on the court. Magic once bumped a referee, Kobe and Shaq each through some punches (not at each other), and Luke Walton so often was allowed to play. That last one should also be a fineable offense.

    I have no problem with my giant Center taking people out after they attack the lane over and over again. Shaq would do the same thing. Word gets around… People are starting to think twice when they blow by a Lakers PG and get into the lane. And while and while an injury history isn’t something to be taken lightly… We must look at this objectively. Bynum hasn’t had one serious knee injury like an ACL tear or a Microfracture (Greg Oden has three) surgery. He hasn’t had a non contact red flag injury showing a lack of structural integrity ala Yao Ming. All of Andrew’s injuries have been caused by another player. Shaq missed as many games per season during stretches do to MCL issues and feet issues. The good news is it looks like Bynum is heading in the right direction. He has transformed his body and his game with hard work and study. More importantly he has that “it” quality. He just looks different on the court. Before Kobe was Kobe and was averaging less than 13 ppg you could tell he was something different. Will Andrew be a Kobe? Probably not. But you don’t trade someone like Drew for anyone outside of LeBron James or Dwight Howard. We all remember what Bynum did to Howard the last meeting between the two. Howard got several shots blocked do the larger Bynum and was out rebounded. A 23 year old seven foot kid this good with little basketball experience is not something to complain about.


  24. I agree with Jim c. I have yet to run into one knowledgeable fan or sportswriter who has been impressed or excited with the recent laker moves and Jim buss. If people can’t see that it’s a risky move to put your hopes in bynum based on his many injuries, then they are in denial. I think every laker fan would love Bynum to be the future of the team, the cornerstone of future championships and the dominant center of the NBA, but there’s a very good chance that will not happen. So to put any kind of real faith in Jim buss at this time is exactly the type of naïveté that some people here blame on “fans.” No one is saying Jim buss can’t be as good as Jerry, but he’s got to earn it. Let’s not put our blind faith into ownership. Let’s leave that thinking for the fans of the timberwolves, clippers and trailblazers, to name a few.


  25. The injuries that Bynum had, or most of them at least were freak accidents, from our own players falling into his knees. It is not like he just naturally has injury issues. Unfortunately, he does not appear to have the same jumping or even movement as he had before them. If the right deal comes along, yes, I would trade him in an instant for any other great player. We have two 7-footers that are costing a lot of money, that money could be used in better ways, IMO.


  26. Despite all the criticism, I was a Bynum-supporter for all those past years. The kid is big and the potential to be a great center was there.

    However, “potential” follows a certain timetable, you have the skills and it will develop…some day.

    The problem is that the “someday” is just taking too long, at the point that the league already have another “potential-new-best-center” on DHoward. He’s not even close to other centers I’ve see on the hardwood, but at least he shows “potential”.

    Just like DH needs to develop his game in order to become the next big thing, so does Bynum. And it’s been 6 years and the kid still misses some shots 1 feet from the basket.

    I’m affraid that we are what we are because of Mr Buss, the greatest owner in the world. Now with Jim Buss, we’re doomed…That’s my feeling.

    Putting all his tokens on Bynum? I’d put all my tokens on KOBE, 34 and counting…Build a team around him now, quick…

    Even if I had to trade Bynum…who?


  27. This will be a key year for Bynum considering his contract, and injury issues. I like the guy personaly,but since he`s not rehabbing this summer,he has to show that he can still do it athleticly on the floor for 30+min a game. If he can`t or has another big injury, the Lakers are in big trouble. I also think Brown and his new staff will inspire and help his development. I know Brown will demand max effort from Bynum on D. That means he will have to move around much better than he`s shown over the past few years.


  28. LT your comment #18 is the best written argument I’ve seen about Drew. I argue that his accidents were freak occurances, but failed to take it one step further. He has been injured and freak or not, they will affect him in the future. Very true.

    I have always been of the mind that we should consider moving him if offered someone like Howard and another piece that would not cost us Lamar. If the CBA allows Orlando to rid themselves of Agent 0’s contract, maybe they might not be as difficult to trade with.


  29. Who can have an issue with his character after seeing his commitment to fight through the knee problems in the 2010 finals? They don’t win that series without Bynum’s minutes.

    I tend to also be in the camp that says if offers come we have to listen. But Chris Paul? Like he hasn’t had any injury issues himself?

    I’m more interested in this team shedding some of it’s age so I’d prefer to see Pau or even Lamar go before Bynum.

    In any case we have to see what the soft cap – hard cap results in the new CBA turn out to be before worrying about trading front line players and what we can afford in return.


  30. to #34 I have an issue his character. The cheap shot on Barrae was the third time he as taken out a much smaller player in midair with an elbow to the chest. I dont have a problem with hard fouls( go for the ball and smash him) but the take downs show a complete disregard for others. And the nba agrees (5 games this time ). This is a BIG minus in my book. An d the game situation made it worse too. You got beat. Take it like a man dont go bully some little guy.