Andrew Bynum

Bynum gets fresh chance to show maturity, be a leader

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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.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: