Andrew Bynum, once considered among the top centers in the NBA, has spent the last several weeks looking for an NBA home. He finally got one over the weekend, and landing in Indianapolis could be a big deal for the Pacers, literally and figuratively.
If the 7-foot-1 Bynum can regain a modicum of the form he displayed a few years ago as member of the championship Los Angeles Lakers, he would make Indiana stronger in its quest to dethrone two-time NBA champion Miami. Bynum would back up all-star center Roy Hibbard, and create more inside might against physically deficient Heat.
If Bynum is more the plodding, disinterested player he showed before the Cleveland Cavaliers released him last month, then he’ll just take up a lot of space on the Pacer bench.
”It really wasn’t a hard decision, I think it’s the right fit for me and, in all honesty, I think we’ve got the best chance of winning,” Bynum said in a statement. ”It will be great to back up Roy and I’ll do whatever I can to help this team.”
Pacer executive Larry Bird said in a statement: ”We are obviously happy to have him join our team. He gives us added size, he is a skilled big man and he has championship experience. With the minutes he gets, he should be a valuable addition.”
The concern is Bynum’s attitude. He was suspended by the Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team, reported as being “disrespectful’ to assistant coaches. The Pacers are said to have a locker room replete with players who get along, so Bynum’s presence and disposition will be under scrutiny.
”We like to judge people for ourselves, and we know what he can be as a basketball player,” coach Frank Vogel said. ”We’re going to see if he can regain that form, and if he can, you have one of the best centers in the NBA. And now you add him to the mix we already have … The goal here is to insure ourselves against injury in terms of adding depth at the center position, which we needed to do. And there’s potential to add an All-Star caliber player.”
After the Lakers traded Bynum to Philadelphia in 2012, he missed the entire season because of knee injuries. This season, after signing with Cleveland as a free agent, he played in only 24 games before the indefinite suspension. He was eventually dealt to Chicago, which quickly released him so it didn’t have to guarantee the remaining $6 million owed to him this season.
Indiana (35-10) entered Saturday with a three-game lead over the Heat in the chase for home-court advantage and has made no secret of its desire to get the top seed in its quest to win the team’s first NBA crown.