While Laker fans may be accustomed to the drama, back-and-forth via the media, and ‘diva-like’ personalities from their ‘superstars’, the organization has proven a willingness to put up with this unfortunate byproduct of success in today’s NBA only as long as it produces championships.
For the record, I’ve been celebrating and chronicling Andrew Bynum’s noticeable improvement over the past few months.
Along with the additional strength and structural confidence that came from a regimented off-season work out, Bynum seems to have developed a Shaq-sized ego…just without the ‘cache’ of prolonged dominance or the consistency to back it up. Kobe Bryant may be on record as an advocate for Bynum’s chippiness and edge, but Bryant might want to be careful what he’s asking for. This is brewing into a potentially dangerous situation when you consider the timeline of Bynum’s behavior over the last 12 months:
I specifically shared this video to dispel the notion that Bynum’s questionable decisions/behavior started under Coach Mike Brown’s watch. All three of those horrendous acts, along with getting cited twice for illegally parking in handicapped spots took place prior to Mike Brown’s tenure. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times spoke of Bynum’s ‘stubborn sense of entitlement’ back in December of 2011. Add these incidents to the string of events that have taken place this season, and you get the sense Bynum may have lost interest in playing the role of ‘Little Brother’.
Save the comparisons of the Kobe/Shaq power struggle and Bynum’s recent difficulties. While there may be similarities in terms of Bryant’s prime years fading as Bynum emerges, that’s where the connection ends. Bryant’s main frustration with O’Neal was his inability to fully dedicate himself to being a professional athlete above being an entertainer. Bryant has always been a willing passer and teammate when he felt the passion/focus on winning was shared. Bynum, in this case, seems to simply desire a perceived stronghold or control over team. The petulance and stubbornness displayed in some of his recent comments and actions are not based upon a desire for winning, rather they seem to be generated from emotional immaturity.
When asked his opinion of a recent in-game huddle where Bryant delivered an impassioned message to the team, Bynum’s response was:
“I don’t take part in huddles…I’m resting, getting my ‘Zen’ on.”
While this may be entertaining to us, it simply is not the message you want to hear from a young, budding star. According to John Ireland of Mason & Ireland and play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Lakers radio broadcast team, while the Lakers plan to exercise the team option to max-out Bynum’s contract, it is an action that cannot take place until after the season…and a decision that can be changed/altered depending upon how the season turns out.
In all fairness, my ‘put up, or shut up’ attitude is not exclusive to Bynum. It’s time for the remaining veterans (Bryant/Gasol/World Peace) to step forward and have a serious discussion with Bynum about unity (heading into the postseason) and dedication to the overall team concept. While Bynum may think laughing on the bench while your team struggles and refusing to participate in huddles or team discussions is merely an act of defiance towards Coach Brown, in actuality it is a slap in the face of all his teammates….not to mention, his fans/supporters.
We’ve been waiting a long time to see a healthy Bynum unleash his fury and frustration on the league, but we didn’t expect it to come at such a price towards the team’s chemistry. Without a doubt, Bynum has the potential to be the game’s top big man. The last 12 games of the regular season and however far the Lakers make it in this year’s playoffs may be Bynum’s last opportunity to prove to Lakers management he is worthy of a maximum contract, and worthy of taking this proud and storied franchise into the post-Bryant era. As Bynum said as recently as January 18th:
“There’s a bank in every city!”
Something tells me he’s not overly concerned with where he plays. You’d think putting up career numbers while playing a full 10-minutes more per game (under Brown), and Brown’s insistence to feature him in the offense over Gasol (all while winning), would be enough to appease Bynum. With, yet another, recent report of Bynum blowing off a meeting with GM Mitch Kupchak, maybe it is about time for Jerry and Jim Buss to step in and discuss the future with the young man. Sooner or later, you’d like to think something will get through. For the sake of the Lakers and their fans, hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.