Once upon a time it was believed that Andrew Bynum was one of the top two centers in the NBA. He seemed to have all of the God-given skills necessary to be one of the most dominant big men the league had ever seen.
When the Los Angeles Lakers drafted him with their 10th pick in the 2005 NBA draft, they were sure they were getting a future star. He was only 17-years-old (the youngest player ever drafted by an NBA team) and showed all of the promise in the world.
To say Bynum never showed signs of greatness in an NBA game would be unfair to him and a downright lie. There were times when he looked like the best player in the entire league, but unfortunately, there were more times when he looked like an overrated, injury-prone, waste of talent.
Regardless of Bynum’s injury history, his sheer talent alone was able to get him a load of money on several occasions. In June of 2012, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired the big man from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a four-team deal.
Along with Bynum, the Sixers acquired his contract that was worth a little more than $16 million.
Proving to be a savvy business man, Bynum made everyone believe he’d be 100 percent healthy at some point during the season. Instead, Bynum didn’t play a single minute for the Sixers. He had season-ending surgery on both of his knees in March.
Essentially Philadelphia paid Bynum $16 million to sit on the bench for an entire year.
A year later, Bynum promised Philadelphia that he would have played if he could have.
“If I could’ve played I would have,” Bynum said. “I don’t really care [how the fans will treat him]. It is what it is. I was hurt and I’m still hurt but I’m trying. … Nothing went bad, nothing went wrong. I think people just need to accept the facts that my knees are the way they are.”
Regardless of how bad his knees are, they certainly didn’t stop Bynum from resuming his basketball career elsewhere.
Cash in Cleveland
In the summer of 2013, Bynum once again claimed he was 100 percent healthy and ready to live up to his NBA potential. Teams were smartly skeptical, but that didn’t stop him from ultimately getting paid.
The Cleveland Cavaliers would eventually sign the center to a two-year deal worth $24 million. The second year of the deal is a team option essentially making the contract a one-year deal worth $12 million.
Regardless if he’ll get the full $24 million or just the $12 million, he ended up getting more millions than he deserved based on his injury history.
Throughout the offseason, Bynum continued to hype himself up. He claimed he was healthy and ready to play some basketball. But surprise, surprise – once the regular season tipped off, he finally let the truth be known.
Just a few games into the 2013-14 season, Bynum complained of discomfort in both knees. He also stated that he’s contemplating retirement.
“Retirement was a thought, it was a serious thought. It still is,” Bynum, 26, said after a Cavs’ practice at Temple University. “It’s tough to enjoy the game because of how limited I am physically. I’m working through that. Every now and again I do [think about retirement]. … It’s still career-threatening. I’m a shell of myself on the court right now. I’m just struggling mentally.”
Cavs Left Wondering
After Bynum’s retirement talk, the Cavaliers have to know they can’t expect much from him. But what should they do? Should they let him sit on the bench all season like the 76ers did, or should they be patient and let him play a few minutes every now and then even though he’ll likely struggle?
Through the first four games of the Cavs 2013-14 season, Bynum averaged 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 13 minutes. Unfortunately, he may be doing more harm than good when his time on the hardwood has to be so closely monitored.
Money, Money, Money
Although Bynum claims he’s contemplating retirement, he did not seem serious about it. In the same interview, the big man also expressed his love for the game.
“I just want to be able to play without pain and find the joy again,” Bynum said. “Right now I’m battling pain and it’s annoying. I’m not able to do the things I’m used to doing, and it’s frustrating.”
People may perceive those comments in many different ways, but it sounds like he’ll hang around the NBA as long as teams are willing to pay him for sitting on the bench.