We know when Andrew Bynum plays, and we know when he doesn’t.
Sometimes, it’s easy to evaluate Bynum’s health in those same binary terms.
Watching Bynum clearly reveals a combination of injury and rust have robbed him of his athleticism, but whether Bynum feels fine or not is a different story. He might feel well enough to play, but the rest is much grayer.
Any time Andrew Bynum runs up and down the court, he feels sharp pain in his knees. It’s not as bad as it was last season, when he didn’t play a single NBA game. It hurts most when he attempts to jump in any way or make any kind of explosive movement.
So he’s accepted that his game – for this season, at least, but maybe forever – will be limited to what he can accomplish from the space he takes up with his 7-foot, 285-pound frame.
“I’ll just stick to the floor,” Bynum said Monday. “Ground game. Position defense and position offense on the ground.”
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That’s why Bynum has considered retirement. How many of you would continue your job if its basic responsibilities caused sharp pain, especially if you’d already made enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life?
Here’s why Bynum hasn’t retired, though: He’s adjusting reasonably well.
Bynum has made just 8-of-23 shots in the restricted area this season (34.8 percent), well down from the 68.0 percent he made previously in his career. But his 2-point shooting outside the restricted area is up from 38.4 percent to 43.9 percent.
Defensively, Bynum has a career-high 5.8 block percentage. Cleveland’s opponents also shoot a little worse in the restricted area when Bynum is on the court. He can still jump a little to block shots, and he chooses his opportunities well.
But Bynum also camps out underneath the basket, because he lacks mobility. The Cavaliers’ opponents shoot considerably better in the paint but outside the restricted area when Bynum is on the court, and that partially explains why Cleveland’s defensive rating is worse with Bynum on the court.
To Bynum’s credit, it seems he’s making the most of his physical limitations.
How much is a physically limited Bynum worth, though?
The Cavaliers can waive Bynum by Jan. 7 and pay him just $6 million this season. There are other considerations besides how Bynum has produced so far – or even how he’ll produce the rest of this season. If he returns to peak form in 2014-15, though unlikely, Bynum would be a bargain at $12.54.
But a so-so jump-shooting center with limited defensive range just isn’t that valuable, even if he’s maximizing his value.