An Open Letter to Andrew Bynum: It’s Time to Step Up

Dear Mr. Bynum,

You probably don’t care about this letter I’m about to write to you, but it’s something you need to hear.

A month ago on Monday Night RAW, former WWE superstar Edge made his first appearance on television for the first time in a year since being forced to retire with a career-ending neck injury. He was there to confront John Cena about his match with Brock Lesnar, the man who just returned to wrestling after a failed attempt to make the NFL and a brief UFC career. Edge demanded that Cena defeat Lesnar because Edge believes Lesnar merely returned to the WWE to line his pockets, not because he loves what he does.

Edge punctuated his speech by saying: “I tell you what John, you need to wake up, if you don’t it’s a slap in the face to guys who love this industry. I’m not asking you to beat Brock Lesnar, I’m telling you to.”

While I’m fully aware that the drama from that segment I just referenced is completely fabricated, along with everything else in professional wrestling, the message I’d like you to grasp by the end of this letter is the same one Edge delivered to John Cena: wake up.

Since the day Jim Buss anointed you as the future of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’ve had my doubts about you. But I have to say you were slowly living up to the hype. In your first game back from suspension this year, you recorded 29 points and 13 rebounds, leaving your fingerprints all over that victory. You played so well that the fans had no choice but to vote you in as the starting center for the Western Conference All-Star team for the first time in your young career. To cap it all off, in Game 1 of this series with the Denver Nuggets you posted the first Laker triple-double in over a decade (10 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks). I started buying into the prospect that you are the future of the most decorated franchise in the NBA.

Then Games 5 and 6 rolled around, and your immaturity outshone your play on the court for the umpteenth time. The team was up 3-1 in the series, with three chances to close the Nuggets out, you decide to open your mouth and give the Nuggets the source of inspiration they needed: “Close-out games are actually kind of easy,” you said. “Teams tend to fold if you come out and play hard in the beginning, so we want to come out and establish an early lead and protect it.”

Big words coming from the same man who admitted his lack of preparation in Game 3 was the primary reason he was unproductive throughout the game.

Your inexplicable comments to the media are just the latest examples on your laundry list of immature antics.

Let me refresh your memory.

In the past year alone you’ve delayed knee surgery in order to attend the World Cup of soccer, parked in a handicap space and showed no signs of remorse, elbowed J.J. Barea in Game 4 and took an errant three-pointer in a game against Golden State and chuckled about it afterwards on the bench.

Are those the actions of a future franchise player Mr. Bynum? Riddle me that.

We all know you’re extremely unreceptive to criticism judging by you deleting your Twitter account in the midst of the Dwight Howard trade rumors. But maybe it’d be beneficial for you to listen to your coaches and teammates once in a while instead of sitting at the end of the bench getting your “zen” on.

Since making your comments about closeout games being easy, here are the stat lines from your last two games, both of them losses.

Game 5: 19 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

Game 6: 11 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Those numbers appear to be impressive on the surface, but the statistics don’t tell the story of the games. It’s not about the numbers you put up, but how you put them up. In both games you looked indifferent towards the result of the game unless provoked. JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov have both outworked you in consecutive games; and while their stat lines are certainly not as impressive as yours at the end of the 48 minutes they showed a heart and desire to contribute to victory.

To make things worse, you weren’t there when the team needed you the most during Game 6. In a game when your two other stars didn’t produce like they usually would, Kobe because of a stomach virus and Pau because of God-knows-what, you mailed it I instead of stepping it up. Your performance prompted Kobe to admit that you, and the rest of the Lakers, didn’t match his desire to win two nights ago despite the fact that he needed four bags of IV fluids just to be hydrated enough to play the damn game.

How do you sleep at night knowing that you play half-heartedly every other game when the guy across the locker room from you lives to win basketball games. How are you able to laugh at the end of the bench with Pau knowing that #24 was unable to sleep until 2 a.m. after losing Game 3 of the 2009 finals in Orlando.

So it comes down to Game 7 tonight. This game not only decides the winner of this series but it also either rescues your legacy temporarily or shatters it permanently. The choice is yours whether to show up or not.

But let me leave you with this. As spectacular as you’ve been this season, if you don’t show up to Game 7, your legacy with the Lakers will be that of a glorified Greg Oden, or even better – the player the Lakers could’ve gotten for Dwight Howard.

Think about it Mr. Bynum, in your seven years in the NBA what have you really accomplished? You’ve played in approximately 50 percent of the games you’ve been eligible for due to injuries. During the two championship runs you’ve been a part of, you’ve been the team’s fourth most important player both times (behind Kobe, Pau and Lamar Odom in 2009 and behind Kobe, Pau and Ron Artest in 2010), and that’s being generous. Now that you’re finally healthy you’ve only been able to deliver a handful of meaningful performances this season, continuing to ride shotgun with Kobe. In the team’s most memorable game of the year, the comeback victory against the Thunder, you were benched for most of the fourth quarter and both overtimes in favor of Jordan Hill.

My friend has texted me before every playoff game this year saying if you don’t at least receive 15 quality shot attempts, the Lakers aren’t running the offense properly. If he sends me the same text tonight before tip-off my retort will be obvious: a guy who doesn’t show the heart to win doesn’t deserve to receive 15 touches in the post nevertheless 15 shots.

The Lakers need the Andrew Bynum of Game 1 to return in order to stand a chance against the Nuggets’ “blitzkrieging” the team out of their home building in the most important game of the season.

By not showing up to Games 5 and 6, you’ve not only let yourself down, you’ve let every single player down who has ever donned the letters Lakers across their chest. You have one last chance to redeem yourself tonight.

Just as Edge told John Cena, wake up Andrew Bynum; I’m not asking you to defeat the Denver Nuggets in game seven, I’m telling you to.

Gabe Lee

President of the Disgruntled Fans Association

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