During a four-game stretch for the Cleveland Cavaliers, from November 30 to December 7, Andrew Bynum averaged 18 points and nine rebounds. His seven-foot frame would help his new team win three of those four games after struggling mightily to begin the season. Cleveland would even use the momentum he helped create to win their next two from there. On the shoulders of their largest player, for a brief moment in Cavaliers history, things were looking up.
In the midst of that mini-run, Anderson Varejao would tell me that his new teammate looked like the All-Star he used to know from Los Angeles. Others agreed. Maybe he would defy all logic and become great again, I thought. Maybe he would regain his spot as the second-best center in all the NBA. Maybe Brad Daugherty would have company in the discussion of greatest Cavs centers to ever do it. Maybe he was rededicating himself to the game at just the right time. Maybe this would be incredibly epic.
Just as we dared to believe, however–or at least I dared to believe–the Bynum chapter came to a thunderous, screeching and obnoxious halt. He's been suspended. He's not with the team. He's also now the subject of false yet still distracting rumors. He might not ever play again and it appears he'll end his Cavaliers career with averages of eight points and five rebounds in 24 games overall. Which brings me back to assessing the risk in signing Bynum to begin with. The worst-case scenario wasn't this in my mind, it was never playing a game like he never did in Philadelphia. But this might be actually worse.
Instead of never playing a game for the Cavaliers, Bynum may have stunted the development of this team by actually playing as many games as he did. At least, maybe, I'm hoping now this is the case. Mike Brown spoke regularly about developing an understanding of how to incorporate Bynum into the offense along the way to a 10-20 record–how his teammates needed to feed him in the post, get him the ball, actually use him as an asset.
Those teammates, meanwhile, appeared unable to respond. Maybe they didn't want to. Maybe Bynum was the guy they were frustrated with all along. Maybe the concept of trying to run offense through someone who is contemplating retirement on a daily basis is more difficult for a 22-year old than we realize. Or maybe we'll never really know what actually happened for sure.
What we do know now is that Brian Windhorst from ESPN is reporting that "the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers have had discussions on a trade that would involve Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum." There was a time when I was opposed to adding the aging Gasol to this mix of young first round picks but I suppose I'm past that now. I'll take any productive big for however short of a period at this point in exchange for Bynum.
Fourteen points and nine rebounds in a down year is better than anything the Cavaliers can replace him with internally, anyway. Even Fantasy Basketball owners know this much. The free-agent to be will come off the Cavs books following the season and maybe he makes the time he does spend here more tolerable. Maybe he actually helps Kyrie Irving help this team win.
In saying as much on Bynum, though, I'd still take the same risk Chris Grant did the first time all over again if given another chance. Something can still be a good risk, good decision or a good signing even if it doesn't work out. Or didn't work out. I think that's what happened here in the curious case of Andrew Bynum. You [the Cavs] had an opportunity to potentially / maybe add the second-best center in all the NBA. They didn't. He played sooner than we thought, demonstrated signs of life, and for 13 percent of the season to date it was glorious.
Then, the Andrew Bynum era ended suddenly, it appears. As if it never happened at all. Maybe it shouldn't have, either, but I'll always contend that it was at least worth a shot.