NBA players won’t report for their pre-training camp physicals for another seven weeks or so, but Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register offered a public one Wednesday to Lakers center Andrew Bynum. To find out if Bynum’s nose might be out of joint.
The thinking: With all the trade speculation involving the Lakers and Orlando center Dwight Howard, might Bynum be getting a little fed up with the Lakers’ alleged flirtations and their willingness to jettison him in the process?
Conducting trade discussions, even of the most exploratory nature, in private seems an impossibility in this 24/7 Internet age. By this point, Bynum surely knows he is the Lakers’ Plan B. The question Ding raises is, might Bynum use what leverage he has — as one of the league’s top two or three centers, as a Laker eligible for a contract extension that hasn’t been forthcoming and as one of the league’s most coveted free agents of 2013 if he gets that far out the door — out of spite, in return for having his name bandied about?
Maybe, Ding writes.
Well, does Bynum accept who was still the first-team All-NBA center ahead of him and understand this all cool business? Or does he let the personal disappointment that is definitely percolating seep all the way to the heart?
Put yourself in his size 18s, and remember trudging out there with the new knee brace in winning the Lakers’ 2009 championship against Howard and fighting through a surgery-requiring knee injury in winning the Lakers’ 2010 championship over Boston. Imagine reveling in your breakthrough season and then feeling unwanted despite your 30 rebounds in San Antonio in the Lakers’ best regular-season victory and unappreciated despite your 10-block triple-double against Denver in the Lakers’ best playoff victory.
It’s not hard to feel the frown begin and the head start to shake.
The last thing the NBA needs is more people tugging at the sleeves of its stars, reminding them that they’re being “dissed.” But don’t blame Ding or any other writer — most of these guys have people on payrolls whose job description is essentially to do just that.
One possible difference with Bynum is that he has shown himself to be rather independent-minded, not necessarily susceptible to the same traps and ego issues as other players. Oh, he has traps and ego issues, pretty much like we all do, but they sometimes seem specific to him.
That’s what might keep the Lakers guessing. Bynum hasn’t always been an easy read. Figuring out whether he’s less bothered by the team’s sniffing around Howard than other guys isn’t easy. Neither is predicting whether Bynum would take the risks and sacrifice the guaranteed dough in an extension to make the Lakers pay in another, very costly way.