by Kent Sterling
So far, so good. The resurrection of Andrew Bynum’s career as an Indiana Pacer got off to a very good start last night as the sometimes laconic center posted eight points and ten rebounds in 16 minutes.
If Bynum can find a way to put up a 48-minute average of 24 points and 30 rebounds through the final 18 games of the regular season, the Heat, Spurs, and Thunder can say goodbye to any dreams of home court advantage throughout the NBA Playoffs.
That’s very unlikely, but Bynum was very active last night while still appearing a little detached from the social fabric of the team.
One of the most interesting revelations that has been proffered during the media’s insatiable examination of Bynum to figure out what makes him tick is that his hobby is rebuilding computers – a solitary exploit akin to senior citizens putting together jigsaw puzzles.
Assembling computer parts is not the hobby of a social person, and Bynum has not appeared to be a welcoming force on a team during his career. Calling him aloof presupposes a conscious decision to avoid social engagement, which is unfair. People like Bynum just find social interactions uncomfortable and unnecessary.
I’m assuming all of that because like most, I don’t know Bynum. I watch and evaluate, but sharing some deep psychological profile is neither my goal nor field of expertise. Can he play basketball? That’s the question that will determine Bynum’s value to the Pacers, not whether he’s a lot of fun on the team bus.
And last night, Bynum showed there is still ability left to dominate the interior against a team without a true NBA center. He isn’t going to win any team sprints, but when Bynum puts his ample rear end into the pelvis of a defender, the possession should be over and the Pacers should earn a deuce.
After the next four games against terrible teams (76ers 2x, Pistons, and Knicks), the road gets steep for the Pacers over the final 14 contests of the regular season. Two against the resurgent Bulls, two against the Heat, one each against the Spurs and Thunder will be a stiff test. Immediately following the Knicks, the Pacers will face a gauntlet of the Bulls, Grizzlies, Bulls, Heat, and Wizards – all playoff teams.
The Pacers have a much better second unit with a healthy and energetic Bynum, and those two things appear to be linked. Pain tends to erode enthusiasm, and balky knees have been a big part of the Bynum equation for a long time.
Whether the Pacers trainers have been able to strengthen the areas around Bynum’s knee to the point where he can play with minimal pain through 18 regular season games, and up to 28 playoff tilts is to be seen, but the positive is that the back-to-backs will be over once April begins.
It’s safe to assume that coach Frank Vogel will sit Bynum on the back end of the remaining three back-to-backs, and Bynum has a puncher’s chance of staying on the floor 16 minutes per game for the rest.
This fascinating season for the Indiana Pacers is becoming more and more fascinating, and whether Bynum has another 688 minutes (43 games times 16 minutes) of all-star quality basketball left is his knees and mind, is the latest captivating question.