Player Report Card: Andrew Bynum

After putting off summer knee surgery to attend the World Cup Andrew Bynum’s revised return date first had him coming back by the end of training camp. Then it was the start of the season. Then mid November. Then…

Obviously Lakers fans were not pleased by the delays but ultimately, after a slow start, big ‘Drew showed everyone a glimpse of what his bright future may hold.

Regular Season Grade: B

Andrew Bynum’s regular season was really a tale of two halves.

Still recovering from knee surgery, Bynum didn’t make his regular season debut until December 14th and his first few games were little more than a practice run, as he didn’t log more than 22 minutes of game action until the 29th of the month.

By the turn of the year Bynum had upped his minutes and the rest of his numbers followed suit but there was still a sense that he wasn’t quite at 100%, perhaps missing some of the explosion that he had possessed in seasons past.

The turning point came after a three game losing streak preceding the All-Star break. Bynum sat down with coach Phil Jackson to better define his role for the team and what PJ expected out of his big man coming out for the stretch run. Suddenly, it was as if a bell went off inside ‘Drew’s head.

Bynum keyed the best stretch of basketball of the whole season for the Lakers, leading them to a 17-1 mark in which he averaged 13 points, 13 rebounds and nearly 3 blocks per game. What Lakers fans saw in Bynum was a transformation of a player was stood around to get rebounds to a player who pursued the basketball. From a defensive scarecrow to a roving beast, intimidating opponents with his activity and his ferocity.

Andrew’s best game, ironically, would come on March 12th against the very team that would eventually knock the Lakers out of the playoffs. Bynum scored 22 points and snatched 15 rebounds in a road win against the Mavs. The victory was one of the highlights of the Lakers season.

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCSvsWvGreI

Despite the Lakers stumbles in the month of April, Bynum still finished strong with his rebounding totals but suffered  a scare in the second to last game of the season against San Antonio when he fell awkwardly after landing on DeJuan Blair’s foot.  Lakers Nation took a collective deep breath, fearing that history might be repeating itself,  but MRI results showed it to only be a bone bruise and Bynum was soon cleared for the playoffs.

Playoff Grade: B+

One of the few positives to come out of the 2011 playoffs was the that Bynum established himself as a capable post season performer. He was the Lakers most consistent big man of the second season, averaging 14 points, 10 rebounds and shooting a solid 54% from the field.

In fact the only reason Bynum doesn’t merit a higher grade is because of the embarrassing way in which he finished the season. During the 4th quarter of the Game 4 drubbing they took at the hands of the Mavericks, Andrew leveled J.J. Barea on a drive to the basket. His subsequent ejection, followed by tossing his jersey into stands, will be a lasting memory of many who watched the Lakers melt down in that final game.

Overall Grade: B

For ‘Drew it was a season that seemed to be getting progressively better right up until the bitter end. There is a five game suspension waiting for him at the beginning of next year as a result of his flagrant on Barea, but certainly the expectations leading into 2012 will be high.

At a minimum, Bynum’s performance in the second half of this season significantly upped his trade value. More optimistically, perhaps this a turning point in Andrew’s career where he finally begins to realize his full potential, and become the next in a line of dominant Lakers centers. We’ll know soon enough.

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