Persistent injuries have put a strain Andrew Bynum's body -- and the… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
One moment. Give me one moment. In five years, can you remember one defining Andrew Bynum moment?
Was it two seasons ago, in January, when he went on a five-game tear in which he averaged 26 points and 14 rebounds? Well, yeah, except then his knee buckled.
Was it last season, in the first round of the playoffs against Oklahoma City, when he put up three double-doubles in five games, including a message-sending slam dunk to begin the postseason? Well, yeah, except then his knee buckled.
Some would say that moment occurred in last year's Finals, when Bynum admirably gritted his way through seven games on a torn knee. But even then, weren't we applauding him as much for his tolerance as his effectiveness? In the final four games against the Celtics, he had a dozen points and 14 rebounds … combined.
This year? A Bynum moment? Still waiting. He missed the first chunk of the season because he foolishly delayed summer knee surgery, and since he's been back, well, who knows that he's even been back? The Lakers are 18-9 in games with him, and 18-7 in games without him, and now the question gets serious.
How are you going to build a franchise around a player who has spent six years here without one defining moment? The answer is, you can't. And when the Lakers responded to Tuesday's Internet buzz by saying they would never trade Bynum to Denver for Carmelo Anthony, I was struck with one more question.
If they want to slip another championship or two under the closing window of Kobe Bryant's career, this is their best chance. If they want to lay down a new foundation to begin the rebuilding process after Bryant leaves, this works.
Bynum, a great guy who has been victimized only by his own brittle body, has thus proven to be neither kingmaker nor cornerstone. At the Lakers' current pace, they're not going to win this year's title with him, and history says he won't be sound enough to lead them to future ones.
You say Bynum is only 23. I remind you that Anthony is only 26.
Bynum may be young in life years, but he has aged in NBA years, and at some point we're going to have to stop considering him a kid. Anthony, meanwhile, has been as consistent as Bynum has been invisible, eight seasons of at least 20.8 points per season, and he's hungry enough for a ring that his ego should fit with Kobe's.
You say Bynum's absence will hurt the Lakers inside. I remind you that the Lakers' biggest problem this year comes from the outside.
The Lakers are near the top of the league in rebounding but are only 15th in the league in field goal percentage in the fourth quarter of games they trail. Kobe needs help closing, and Anthony gives him that help. The Lakers' offense needs a second option outside, and Anthony can take that shot. The Lakers don't shoot as well as their biggest rivals, and Anthony would fix that.
You say this deal would put Pau Gasol in the unfortunate spot of having to play center with no solid backup. I remind you that Gasol has already won a title with minimal help.
Gasol carried the load against the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard in the Finals two seasons ago, with Bynum averaging just 19 minutes and failing to reach double digits in either scoring or rebounds. The Lakers could probably acquire someone like the Nuggets' Chris Andersen or Shelden Williams in this deal and, while they are certainly no substitute for Bynum, they could manage.
You say this means Ron Artest must go to the bench. I remind you, that's a good thing.
This could be the impetus Artest needs to knock him out of his funk. This could also finally make him forget about scoring and allow him to focus only on his defense.
Of course, for as much sense as this column makes to the Lakers, I might as well be Artest.
The Lakers officials say they won't do this deal. They say they are being hurt too much defensively. They say they haven't yet given up on this year's core group winning another title. They say there's no way crown prince Jimmy Buss, who personally drafted Bynum, would ever want to deal him.
I say they're only fooling themselves. I say if they don't make this deal, they could end up spending the next three years looking for a guy like Anthony while waiting on a guy like Bynum. I say Kobe deserves one more chance at a title. I say Lakers fans deserve another chance at a three-peat. I say this trade could be their best and last chance at making that all happen.
Still searching for a defining moment in the Lakers career of Andrew Bynum? That moment is now.