I remember attending the Long Beach Summer Pro League back in 2006, and one of the scheduled matchups pitted the Grizzlies – featuring Hakim Warrick and then-rookie Kyle Lowry – against newly drafted Jordan Farmar and the Lakers. Though it’s difficult to recall most of the remaining players who suited up for that particular game, I do remember seeing 19-year-old Andrew Bynum matched up against Andreas Glyniadakis at the center position. Though he finished with 12 points, Bynum seemingly had his hands full that afternoon, committing six fouls in 20 minutes and appearing a bit out of rhythm.
Two of the biggest question marks surrounding Bynum as he entered the league was how he’d fare having to fill the void at center after the departure of Shaquille O’Neal, and how he’d handle developing in a city that had been accustomed to competing for championships. During his sophomore season that year, he averaged 7.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 1.3 BPG. In 2007/08, Bynum posted 13.1/10.2/2.1, and despite being limited to 35 games, continued to show promise as a potential franchise cornerstone. HIs scoring averages would increase to 14.3 and 15.0 respectively over the next two seasons, and just a little over four years after that forgettable performance in Long Beach, Bynum would be celebrating his second consecutive NBA title as the team’s starting center.
Though he struggled with injuries during his seven-year stint in Los Angeles, he statistically peaked in his final year with the Lakers, appearing in 60 games and scoring 18.7 PPG on 55.8% shooting, grabbing 11.8 RPG, blocking nearly 2 shots per night, and would consequently earn his first All-Star berth. Unfortunately, Bynum wouldn’t be able to follow up in 2012/13, as injuries kept him from playing a single game for the 76ers. Cleveland appeared to present another chance at returning to prominence, though it appears that things don’t seem to progressing as well as he would like.
Earlier today, we heard that Bynum’s continued battle to stay healthy has mentally taken it’s toll, and he says he can’t enjoy playing the game knowing that he’s unable to completely do what he used to (Keith Pompey of Philly.com):
“It’s tough to enjoy the game because of how I am physically. I’m certain that I will work through the pain…My health is my concern…My knees are my knees. They’re not going to get better. They are what they are. And that’s really it.”
For some, the period of NBA prime arguably lasts between ages 26-33. While it’s hard to believe that he’s already considering retirement at 26, if you consider what he’s already accomplished in the league at this point, do you think Bynum will ultimately retire early?