It was more than just Andrew Bynum’s play compared to Dwight Howard’s that had the Lakers working hard to put together a blockbuster four-team trade that sent Bynum to Philadelphia and brought Howard to L.A.
It also was about whether the Lakers thought Bynum could be the face of the franchise after Kobe Bryant retires in a few years. It was about his maturity.
The Lakers were not sold, at least not as much as they were on Howard. But Bynum has a chance to get the 76ers to buy in and prove the Lakers sold him short. But to do that he has to show his maturity — and he’s going to have to re-sign next summer and stay. (Financially it is better for him to become a free agent and re-sign than it is to sign an extension.)
For years Bynum has wanted a bigger part of the Lakers offense and to be more of a focal point of the team — he’s going to get that now. He’ll get all the attention he’ll want from the media, fans and opposing defenses. But it comes in a city that will expect nightly effort and not the moments of immaturity that had the Lakers balking.
Moments like flattening J.J. Barea at the end of a playoff game for no good reason. Or firing up a three pointer, then when coach Mike Brown called him out on it saying he’d do it again. Or the poor outings, the nights of disinterest, including in the playoffs. Or a nonchalant attitude after those poor outings.
To be fair, Bynum has matured a lot, on and off the court. As a rookie he was so raw he took a hook shot off the wrong foot at Summer League. That first year he used to leave practice, swing by McDonald’s on the way home, stock up then go sit on his couch and play video games.
Over the years Bynum worked hard on his physique and he matured. He’s now a good offensive center with a variety of post moves. He’s in great condition and added a lot of muscle, making him a beast on the block. And he has worked hard to come back from his knee surgeries stronger.
But there were still the moments of immaturity that gave the Lakers pause.
All that has to be in the past now. The good and the bad. Tabula rasa. Bynum is getting a new chance in Philly — with fans ready and willing to embrace him so long as he brings the effort every night. So long as he steps up as a real leader on the court. As long as he has matured enough to step into this moment. The Sixers are going to be top-half of the East good and with a young core that should get better. It is a big stage.
He’s got a real chance, he’s now getting what he has wanted. It’s up to him to seize it.