*If you missed Part 1 yesterday, check it out here…*
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5. ANDREW BYNUM
Andrew Bynum is headed back home after the blockbuster 4-team deal sent him east to Philadelphia. He’s going to be an hour outside of the Plainsboro, NJ neighborhood he grew up in, and that might make the head-scratching big man less of a question mark. It might set him at ease, so he’ll finally be able to put together a consistent year. Or – like what can sometimes happen when a professional athlete is within spitting distance of home – it can exacerbate bad behaviors and attitudes. For some players, there’s a reduction in responsibility as they get near their childhood buddies and revert back to an earlier, less mature time. Regardless of which category Bynum falls into in his season in Philly, it’s finally time for him to come into his own. What better place, than near home?
Andrew Bynum will be entering his eighth year in the league, but his first as a team’s primary offensive option. The theory is he’ll put up monster numbers since he was an uncertain second or third option last year, capable of grabbing 20 rebounds and scoring 30-plus points in one game and only grabbing six rebounds and a couple buckets the next. Even though his production is still a bit unreliable, last year was the first where Bynum was healthy all season. His knees and general well-being as a massive 7-0, 285-pound monster are always tenuous, and that’s part of the reason why he’s headed to Germany for some Kobe-inspired, non-invasive platelet treatments. But the question mark of his health and the fact he’s getting a surgery like this at only 24 years of age is a concern, and another thing for Philly fans to worry about.
With Kobe, Pau, Lamar, Metta and others during his time in L.A., Bynum was – at best – the Lakers’ second or third option and wasn’t expected to handle double teams, a relief for Lakers fans since Bynum handles double teams about as well as a local high school center would handle NBA double teams. He panics when he’s swarmed down low and attempts to pivot away from the pressure, rather than just hold the ball above his head to look for open teammates. He’s not used to being the offensive focal point of an opponent’s defense, and if Philly is really going to use him in that capacity, Doug Collins needs to go over his recognition of defense rotations; it’s either that, or you’ll see a lot of turnovers early in the season.
The injuries and inexperience as the center of a team’s offense are not the only things that could set Bynum back in his new role for Philly. Rod Thorn recently admitted the Sixers’ were originally shooting for Howard in the deal with Orlando. Bynum’s thinking can be as enigmatic as they come (see also: three-point shot development), and it’s comments like Thorn’s that can lead to a funk where Bynum doesn’t play hard and pouts on the bench and in the huddle. He’s gotten better in this regard over the years, but he’s not far removed from another iteration of his earlier teenage petulance. It’s good that Philly CEO Adam Aron is making Bynum and Jason Richardson’s introductory press conference a big deal because appreciating their new big man will benefit them more on the court and also give them a better chance to re-sign him this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Whether they’ll want to sign him to the max contract he’ll likely receive from others is up to how his first year back home as the man goes. He’s under a lot of pressure for a 24-year-old that’s never been in a position to dictate the offense before. Let’s hope he handles it wisely because Sixers coach, Doug Collins, doesn’t suffer fools, and he’d rather bench the big man than have to deal with any headaches.
4. DERRICK ROSE
Remember when Chicago was a title contender and Derrick Rose was the MVP? It seems like so long ago the Bulls were looking at another mini-dynasty and the first real championship-contending team since the Jordan, Jackson and Pippen triumvirate left town. That new Chicago powerhouse led by Rose was only two years ago, and now, all of a sudden, after Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL (usually a 1.5 year rehabilitation) in the first game against Philadelphia during the playoffs this past May, the Bulls are no longer among the elite in the East. It’s Boston and Miami at this point, and possibly New York and Philly, especially after Philly added Bynum to their roster.
Chicago made some moves this offseason, but mainly it concerned people they lost (Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, Kyle Korver and others) and not people they picked up (Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed). Who they chose to let go is redolent of many mid-market teams adhering to the new CBA’s luxury tax penalties. Let’s not forget they’re still stuck with Carlos Boozer’s increasingly calamitous contract, but their Rose-less existence for much of last season’s regular season (where they had the best record in the East) won’t be as formidable for the 2012-13 campaign.
That means Derrick Rose and his surgically repaired knee will be the focal point of Chicago’s season. We’ve already highlighted what a watershed year this has now become for Rose, and his knee is basically the only thing Chicago hoop fans are thinking about as they figure out how everything changed so quickly. The G.O.A.T himself has advised Rose to take his time coming back, but every player is different and even if Jerry Reinsdorf and the rest of the Bulls front office is convinced he should be sitting out all of next year too, they need to listen to Rose, who could very well be ready in February or March. That’s enough time to increase the odds of Chicago getting into the playoffs.
C.J. Watson is in Brooklyn now, and he’s been replaced with Kirk Hinrich. Marquis Teague, their selection from Kentucky, has been underwhelming during the summer at the other guard spot, and no less an authority than Jeff Van Gundy thinks the Bulls may miss the playoffs entirely. So that makes Rose necessary sooner rather than later. If the Bulls want to have any chance next season, Rose will be in the unenviable position where management wants him to rest and avoid re-aggravating the knee, but his competitive drive wants to be back on the court helping his increasingly undermanned teammates.
It’s a lot of pressure for the former MVP, and you can be sure he’ll be trying to get back on the court as soon as possible. Whether that’s the smart play for a franchise that’s built their entire identity around their point guard remains to be seen. But you can be sure Derrick Rose will bear the burden of unmet goals and the expectations he set for himself and his team after a blistering 2010-2011 campaign that saw him win the MVP and get within one hard-fought series of the Finals. Whether he can get back to that point is still up in the air – as are Chicago’s fortunes as a whole.