To fully understand Bynum’s career up to this point, it’s important to understand just how talented he really is.
Bynum began to make headlines during his junior and senior seasons at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, New Jersey. During his junior year he averaged 16 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. As a senior he was even more dominant with an average of 22 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks per game. During his last two years of high school, he averaged 19 points, nearly 15 rebounds and close to six blocks in 32 games.
With the 10th pick in the 2005 NBA draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Bynum. At 17-years-old, he was the youngest player ever drafted by an NBA team. Almost immediately after drafting him, the Lakers hired Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to mentor Bynum in hopes of eventually developing him into the next big superstar.
Bynum made his season debut on November 2, 2005 in the Lakers’ season opener against the Denver Nuggets. He played just six minutes, but that was long enough to become the youngest player to ever participate in an NBA game. He was just 18 years and six days old.
Like any rookie, Bynum had his ups and downs. Some games he looked magnificent and some games he looked horrible. He was extremely inconsistent, but that was expected from a kid fresh out of high school.
Six More Seasons in Los Angeles
In his second season with the Lakers, Bynum eventually earned a starting role. His elite talent was evident, but his inconsistency continued to be a problem throughout his years in Los Angeles.
During the 2007-08 NBA season, Bynum suffered a partially dislocated left kneecap. From that point forward he was never able to fight off the injury bug. In 2009 he suffered a torn MCL in his right knee which forced him to miss 32 straight games. In 2010 he re-injured his knee and eventually underwent another surgery in the offseason. Even though he was obviously nowhere near 100 percent, he fought through the injury while appearing in all 23 of the Lakers playoff games.
Kobe Bryant was always one of Bynum’s biggest critics and had to eventually be silenced by ownership for the way he negatively treated Bynum on and off the court. Bryant didn’t believe that Bynum gave 100 percent in every moment of every game.
Bynum’s knee didn’t fully recover in-time for the 2010-11 season. Lakers coach Phil Jackson limited his time on the court in hopes of minimizing any risk of further damage. When Bynum played, he did so at an elite level. Unfortunately, his knee hampered him throughout the year.
After seven seasons of dealing with Bynum’s inconsistency and injuries, the Lakers finally had enough. On June 4, 2012, Los Angeles dealt Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a four-team deal.
When the 76ers acquired Bynum, they also acquired his contract which was worth a little over $16 million with just one year remaining.
Bynum underwent Orthokine treatments on both of his knees in hopes of healing his arthritis. The Sixers remained patiently optimistic by holding him out of all preseason practices and activities. Unfortunately they would never be rewarded for their patience. His knees never healed which led to him sitting out the entire season.
On March 19, Bynum had season-ending arthroscopic surgery on both knees. He never played a single second for Philadelphia.
A Risk Not Worth Taking
Throughout his years with the Lakers, there were several teams rumored to have interest in trading for Bynum despite his injury concerns and inconsistency on the court. Once upon a time, he was believed to be the most athletic big man in the NBA. People would frequently debate who they would rather have guarding the rim, Bynum or Dwight Howard.
Those days are long gone.
Even though Howard has his own issues, mentioning him in the same sentence as Bynum these days would be insulting.
The 76ers were robbed out of over $16 million when they traded for Bynum in 2012. The fact that he was never able to play due to injury is one thing. The fact that many people believe he could have played, but chose not to, is a whole other problem.
At only 25-years-old, there will be teams willing to bring Bynum in for a workout. However, his representatives are claiming that he refuses to work out for any team before signing. There are also reports claiming Bynum will only be willing to sign a max contract.
As time passes, Bynum will likely become flexible in his demands. It’s hard to imagine any team signing him without making sure he is healthy enough to play. There may be a few teams willing to do so, but those teams would be crazy to give him a max deal from the get-go.