Time for Andrew Bynum to Cut the Attitude, Become a Leader

Just when we all thought that Los Angeles Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum had finally tossed aside his childish ways, he figures out how to backhand us with our own ill-advised optimism.

It seemed in 2011 that Bynum’s immaturity had hit its peak. From clothes-lining Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea and storming shirtless off of the court, to crookedly parking his pretty little sports car in a handicapped spot just to save himself a few extra steps, Bynum continuously reminded us all of the childishness that had been limiting his development over the first six years of his NBA career.

And then the 2011-2012 season tipped off and the sun began to come out from behind his thick head.

Not only was he having a career year void of any injury issues, but he was keeping his temper tantrums to a minimum. Whether it was the lingering trade talks or a sudden sense of pride in his play, something allowed Bynum to finally shake the weight on his shoulders that had held him back for so long.

Apart from his lack of injury and off-court issues, Bynum was also excelling on the court. In the midst of a career year during which he earned his first All-Star nod, Bynum has been averaging 18.3 points and 11.9 rebounds per game (both career highs). His 58.3 field goal percentage currently has him ranked second in the league, only behind New York Knicks’ Tyson Chandler (67.6 percent).

By all appearances, Bynum had finally grown up and the Lakers were loving it.

That was until one head-scratcher of a three-pointer from the big man ushered in massive storm clouds, effectively blocking out the sun that had just begun to shine on his NBA career. Since their arrival, torrential downpours have muddied the path towards NBA enlightenment that Bynum was heading down.

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The first thunderbolt struck in the form of Bynum’s admission that he doesn’t participate in head coach Mike Brown’s huddles. The worst part about it: he openly admitted it as if it was no big deal.

When asked why he didn’t take part in the huddles, all Bynum had to say was, “I’m resting… getting my Zen on.”

I don’t know about you, but my gut instinct when hearing that response is that it came from a 14-year-old’s mouth, not a NBA veteran’s. I’m pretty sure there’s a time for getting your Zen on, and the middle of an NBA game isn’t it.

The Lakers got another jolt on Tuesday when Bynum opted to skip out on a meeting with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Bynum left the team’s shootaround before Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Nets, saying that he was unaware of the gift that the Lakers’ GM was about to give him.

In hopes of sending the seven-foot drama queen a message, the Lakers fined Bynum an undisclosed amount on Tuesday for the aforementioned “numerous infractions.” Unfortunately, the fine probably made as little of a dent in his stubbornness as it did in his wallet.

It seems like no matter how lenient the Lakers are, Bynum has made it routine to act like an apathetic teenager who’s been asked to do his homework or take out the trash.

Despite all of these obstacles that Hurricane Andrew has littered their 2011-2012 season with, the Lakers still have to play it smart. They slapped him with a fine to show their frustration, but mustn’t push the towering toddler over the edge and force him into a mental check-out.

The Lakers have a team-option for the 2012-2013 season on Bynum’s contract, which they’ve publicly said that they will exercise. However, alienating him before the 2011-2012 campaign comes to a close might have devastating effects on next season.

Without Bynum, the Lakers could flounder while ruining their chances at signing the big man long-term. Bynum knows that he can get the league maximum on the free agent market regardless of his childish actions, and won’t hesitate to abandon ship if he feels unwelcome in L.A. If the Lakers hope to keep Bynum, their bridge to the post-Kobe era, they’re going to have to play their cards right and be careful with their center’s fragile sensibility.

Now, with Bynum’s mid-season meltdown hopefully behind him, the Lakers can begin to look towards the future and the playoff run that looms just around the corner. Even while battling injuries, Bynum has still shown an eagerness to see the court and should be ready once the postseason rolls around.

People thought at the beginning of the season that Bynum had overcome his immaturity and was ready to maximize the potential that he had been blessed with. Well, they thought wrong.

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