Today is Andrew Bynum day in Philadelphia, where he gets introduced to the fans and media, when he brings the hope of change to Philly. When they talk about having the second best center to counter a conference where the best teams — Boston, Miami — are going small.
But first, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has to smack him one time on the way out the door.
Abdul-Jabbar was brought in years as a Lakers consultant to coach a young Bynum, who had size and athleticism was but was raw like sushi and didn’t know how to be a professional yet. Abdul-Jabbar worked with him for four years off-and-on, but that ended when Bynum said he had learned what he could from the six-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA champion and NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Kareem lost his gig with the Lakers and has never warmed up to Bynum in part because of it.
Abdul-Jabbar spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the new look Lakers with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash and said this.
“Dwight is very committed to playing and winning,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Andrew has been up and down on that issue. There are times he wants to play, do a great job and he goes out and does it. Then there are other times where it seems like he’s not focused….
“When I first started working with him, he was eager to learn,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He appreciated me shortening the learning curve. Once he figured he did everything he wanted to do in terms of learning, he didn’t want me to bother him constantly going over the fundamentals.”
Abdul-Jabbar is right — Bynum’s focus went in and out at Lakers games. Part of the reason Pau Gasol got pushed to the side of the offense was to get Bynum early touches in the post so he would become engaged. Because otherwise if he wasn’t challenged he became disengaged.
Philadelphia will be the big test of Bynum’s maturity — they are making him the centerpiece of a franchise. It is what Bynum has wanted. Philadelphia has gone so far as to invite fans to come to Bynum’s press conference, to use him as a magnet to draw fans who have drifted away from the team back.
He is capable of living up to it, to being a dominant force. But it’s on him now. The nights off, the flippant attitude about it — that is not what franchise anchors do. Say what you want about Kobe Bryant, he brings the effort every night and demands the same of his teammates. Bynum needs to have learned from that.
Then maybe he really will have moved beyond what Kareem was trying to teach him.