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Celebrating Andrew Bynum, waiting for Dwight Howard

August 20, 2012|By Jon Healey
  • Newly traded Laker Andrew Bynum continues to sport the team colors on the Lakers' official website, which celebrates his 30-rebound game in April.
Newly traded Laker Andrew Bynum continues to sport the team colors on the… (Los Angeles Lakers' website…)

Is it too early to get nostalgic for Andrew Bynum?

The Lakers traded Bynum less than two weeks ago in a four-team deal that brought in forward Earl Clark and guard Chris Duhon from the Orlando Magic -- plus injured Magic center Dwight Howard, who'll take Bynum's place once Howard is fully recovered from back surgery. That's assuming he does recover. Back surgeries are tricky things, after all.

As any Lakers fan would attest, Bynum was infuriating. He has great skills and tremendous size and strength, but not the will, judgment or durability to match them. When he was on, he was unstoppable. He just wasn't on enough.

VIDEO: Andrew Bynum's top moments with Lakers

Nevertheless, on Monday the Lakers' website put a spotlight on Bynum at his best, declaring his 30-rebound effort against the San Antonio Spurs in April to be No. 3 in the "Top 10 Moments of 2011-12." The picture -- shown above -- has a fierce and determined Bynum leaving two Spurs players flat-footed as he leaps for one of those 30 boards.

Bynum also occupies the seventh spot in the top-10 list, which celebrates his making the All-Star team (as a starter, no less) for the first time.

Kudos to the Lakers for not banishing Bynum from the year-end highlights simply because he's no longer with the team. It shows respect not just for Bynum, but for the reality of the season fans just witnessed. Yet it also reminds people of the high price the team paid for Howard, who underwent season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk nine days after Bynum's monster game against the Spurs.

Of course Howard's worth the price -- in theory. He's the best big man in basketball, still relatively young and far more consistently energetic on both ends of the floor than Bynum. We'll have to wait until he sets foot on the court again, however, to see how well he performs in a Lakers jersey. When that will happen is anybody's guess at this point; the season opener is Oct. 30, and Howard hasn't promised to be in uniform. Instead, he's said he has no timetable for playing again.

As a Lakers fan with mixed feelings about Bynum, I was thrilled by the trade because of its potential for turning the Lakers into a four-star juggernaut (five if you count Metta World Peace, which isn't far off the mark). If Howard is anywhere close to 100%, Bynum will be a distant memory, recalled mainly for such exploits as parking in spaces reserved for the handicapped and stripping off his jersey after thuggishly fouling a smurf-like opponent. On the other hand, if Howard turns out not to be the player he used to be, the version of Bynum shown on the Lakers' site Monday will be the one fans remember, bitterly.

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