Andrew Bynum's Approach To Recovery Is A Problem For The Lakers
The Lakers open the regular season on October 26 and maybe, possibly, if we're lucky, Andrew Bynum will be able to play.
But he definitely won't be ready for training camp and it's very unlikely that he'll participate in any of the eight preseason games leading up to the opener against Houston, it was announced Thursday by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.
Bynum is still recovering from a knee surgery underwent on July 28 to repair a cartilage tear in his right knee. He sustained the injury during the first round of last season's playoffs.
He certainly deserves credit for playing through the rest of the playoffs with that injury and helping the Lakers to a second consecutive championship. There isn't a doubt that his contributions were important to that success, even if they were limited due to injury.
His 7-foot frame, combined with the equal size of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, created a foreboding wall for opponents to score against or defend.
But even so, this recent injury report is frustrating news to any Laker fan. This is the fourth consecutive season that Bynum is dealing with a significant knee injury and it's only his sixth year in the league.
Part of that frustration comes from the nagging doubt that Bynum takes this gig as seriously as he should.
Had he undergone surgery earlier in the summer, when the season ended in June, the likelihood of a timely recovery would have been almost guaranteed. Instead, he chose to take a month off to attend World Cup matches in South Africa and vacation in Europe.
Surgery at season's end would have set him up for a healthy start to training camp Saturday and a preseason full of conditioning and team-building. Instead, the Lakers stand a high-percentage chance of staring the season without their starting center.
And listen, sure, in a perfect world, I'd love for Bynum to be able to celebrate his young professional success by taking trips to far-off lands and doing whatever he wants to do (within the bounds of the law and his contract, of course) in the offseason. But this is an imperfect world, one in which injuries and slow recoveries are his constant reality and in which the Lakers pay for his livelihood.
It's time that Bynum begins to take on the responsibility of a near 23-year-old with a demanding career, rather than that of a wealthy young man with no worries and a travel bug.
Beyond questioning Bynum's commitment to or enthusiasm for the upcoming season, this slow recovery raises another issue, an issue that starts with Greg and ends with Oden.
Bynum's last few years are starting to resemble the troubled career of Portland's 7-foot center of the same age. Oden and Bynum both have immeasurable potential but are trumped by repeated injuries that make a career past age 30 look unlikely.
Oden was drafted as the first overall pick in 2007, but he missed the entire 2007-08 season due to a right knee microfracture surgery. He was injured in the first game of the following season, only to return later that season to be injured again, only to return again the next season to be injured again. That brings us to present day. Do you think Blazers fans would be surprised by news of another Oden injury? I would confidently guess not.
Likewise, it's doubtful that Lakers fans are surprised today and doubtful that they'll be surprised if Bynum's knees continue to be the bane of his basketball existence.
What is more surprising, if it continues, is the sneaking suspicion that Bynum cares less about getting well in time to play an entire season than the fans do. With all of his size, potential and skill, he's too good to throw it all away.
Whether it is injury that inhibits his career, or Bynum's own lackadaisical attitude and approach to personal health, it's going to be a shame either way.
To reach writer Emily Wilson, click here.
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