I was open to pain and crossed by the rain and I walked on a crooked crutch
I strolled all alone through a fallout zone and come out with my soul untouched
I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd, but when they said, "Sit down," I stood up
- The Boss "Growin' Up"
Andrew Bynum was playing basketball before Thursday's preseason game win the Detroit Pistons. He didn't play in the game, but he practiced before the game started. He juked left and right, spun and pivoted in both directions. He jumped and heaved shots over Cavaliers 6' 10" Player Development Coach Vitali Potapenko, showing strength, sleekness and power. He is cut up, carved into 285 pounds and in the final stages of a twelve week rehabilitation program.
BYNUM POSTS UP TO HIS LEFT, PUTTING FULL PRESSURE ON HIS LEFT LEG AND LEFT ACL
No one knows when, or even if, at this point, Andrew Bynum will play in an actual game for the Cleveland Cavaliers. We do know this: He has worked himself into a playing weight of 285 pounds. He is chiseled muscle. He is a true seven feet tall. He has been a monster in the past. And the low risk contract that he signed with the Cavaliers this summer will allow the team to make a decision on his future with the franchise by 5:00 PM January 7, 2014. Appromately halfway though the season the team could cut bait and end his Cavalier career by way of not exercising a team option for the second half of the season. He is guarenteed only $6 Million if they do not execute the option.
Bynum's living with a target on him and there's good reasons. Inside those complex knee braces and within the skin has been: A dislocated left kneecap. Right medial collateral ligament tear. A lateral meniscus tear. And most troubling, indications on an MRI that some doctors interpreted as a degenerative condition, with the word “arthritis” whispered through the media. For a 25 year old, it’s a fucking NBA death sentence if it’s true.
The Cavaliers let longtime Athletic Trainer Max Benton go this offseason, opting for a more progressive outlook regarding the health of players. They created the new position "High Performance Director" for former US Ski Team Strength and Conditioning Coach Alex Moore. Moore's focus is expansive including rehabilitation, nutrition, physical therapy, strength and conditioning. He oversees not only a trainer, but also a "performance scientist". If Bynum throws down his first dunk in a game, and if Bynum can stay healthy enough to play in back to back games in an NBA schedule, Alex Moore's team is going to get credit.
Bynum deserves credit already. He hasn’t yet played in a game, but he’s playing in 3 on 3 drills, and his mobility and conditioning is getting closer to that goal. Bynum is obviously working very hard and is very focused. For a person who’s effort in returning to basketball after missing the entire 2012-13 season, was widely and loudly maligned, it’s worth not just noting, but if you believe that the effective return of Bynum is the difference between possibly making the playoffs and having a chance at winning a playoff series, it’s also becoming irrationally and unequivocally excited about.
The Cavaliers won this game, which was highlighted by Kyrie Irving deftness, a massive train off the rails breakaway dunk by Anthony Bennett, and Sergey Karasev. Karasev was matched up by Coach Brown with Chauncey Billups, the longtime NBA veteran point guard who has been in the league since Sergey was 4 years old and traveling Russia during his father's playing career. There was a chatter between the two on the court as the 19 year old Karasev soaked up all of the wisdom the veteran cared to disburse. Billups is all but a coach himself at 37, the dean of Pistons on the court and a certain retired jersey at the end of his career.
The organizational message about Karasev seemed to indicate that not much was expected from him this season. No analysts interpretation of rotations and lineups has Karasev in the first 8 or 9 men that enter the court in games. But he plays with a tenacity, an intensity, and a confidence that is not 19 years old, playing in a league of men for the first time. He executes behind the back passes, he fires contested long balls, he sees the court with expansive vision. The matchup of his not so raw talent against the cool old school skills of Billups coarsely reminded anyone watching that the basketball of the 2000s is passing soon, that the future is always always coming. And that it may be spectacular as we can imagine.
The Cavaliers play the Indiana Pacers tonight in Cleveland. And with only some minor comment, I present the workout of Andrew Bynum:
BYNUM PLANTS BOTH FEET PUSHING BACK, PUTTING PRESSURE ON BOTH ACLS AND PATELLAR TENDONS. NOTE THE DEFINITION IN HIS LEFT GASTROCNEMIUS OF THE CALF.
BYNUM LEAPS STRAIGHT UP. I ESTIMATED A 24 INCH VERTICAL LIFT.
BYNUM ALSO DEMONSTRATED A SURPRISING EXPLOSIVENESS TO HIS LATERAL MOVEMENT AND SIGNIFICANT SKILL IN POST MOVES.
THIS PICTURE AND THE NEXT ONE WERE PART OF THE SAME SPIN TO THE BASELINE
BYNUM RAN THIS DRILL SEVERAL TIMES. HE CAUGHT THE BALL, STEPPED AND SPUN TO THE BASELINE FOR HIS SHOT. HE IS A SKILLED POST PLAYER.