Notes on Becoming a Man.
I’m a Lakers fan. This is pretty evident to anybody lucky enough to get trapped in a room with me for more than fifteen minutes, as there’s nothing I enjoy more than discussing the fortunes and latest feats of the NBA’s greatest franchise. That said, recently the Lakers have been giving me a hell of a lot more heartburn than happiness, due to injuries to our two best Spanish speaking players, Adam Morrison’s sore throat (never underestimate the locker-room-morale impact of a silent, incompetent white man), the apparent decision that defense should be played when the mood strikes, and you know, them not winning every game by 20. That said, even when the Lakers were rolling, in that ancient era now known as November 2009 (back when people were less worried about terrorist undergarments and such), there was a glaring deficiency in our play. That deficiency was 7’2″ tall, longer than a pterodactyl, with soft hands, softer touch, and a level of focus yet more soft, to the point of pudding-like incontinence. For those of you that don’t delight in deciphering obtuse metaphors: Andrew Bynum wasn’t paying any fucking attention when he was on the floor but not going up for a shot, to the point that I compared his focus to flan-like-shit. Now, I’m no paragon of razor-honed intensity -after all, the first draft of this post was created back in that November era. That said, it’s kind of sad that by the time I got around to actually finishing this damn post, Bynum has yet to show that he can maintain focus for a full game. Now it’s just more evident, as the injuries to Pau y Kobe (but especially Pau) have opened up more shot attempts for young Bynum, which has the double-edged impact of both highlighting AB’s strength (he will get buckets on your face) with his weakness (when not getting said buckets, he drifts).
So what’s at work here? Entitlement? The aftermath of signing a (then) 21 year old to a $55 million contract? I think it’s less about the contract and more about the fact that Bynum is, like myself and most of my peers, still a child. Despite our respective ritualistic adulthood reaching ceremonies (getting drafted in the lottery/receiving first big contract vs. graduating from college), we’re still in the “now what?” phase. Honestly, Bynum seems incredibly well adjusted, intelligent, polite, and just generally like a chill dude I wouldn’t mind hanging out with – which makes sense, given our shared ages, middle-class upbringings in 2-parent homes, and the fact that we’re both 7 feet tall. That said, I also wouldn’t rely on myself to win a professional basketball game, despite my gargantuan height, because, honestly, I’m just not hungry enough. The problem with being well-balanced is that you have the ability to keep things in perspective – the sort of perspective that reminds that basketball is, after all, just a game. Which is great for avoiding certain competitive-disorder related issues (*cough*koberapecharges*cough*), but not so great for becoming an All-Star center. Instead, you get a center with All-Star talent who seems content to float along when he’s the 3rd option, playing solid defense, rebounding the balls that fall in his lap, running the floor for garbage buckets, and then stopping said floor-running as soon as he is overlooked by the guards once or twice, not battling for offensive boards if he’s not getting post-up touches, and generally giving off a vibe of “if you don’t scratch my back, you can go fuck yourself.” It’s made more frustrating by those brief moments, like the first ten minutes of yesterdays Dallas game, when Bynum is our offensive focal point, and responds with a concerted rebounding effort, brutally efficient scoring, and intimidation along the back line. Of course, as soon as he picked up 2 fouls and had to sit down, the magic ended – upon reentering the game, Bynum seemed content to float once again, as Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar and Kobe took on larger roles. Yes, he was unfairly overlooked at times, but like they say, you make your own post touches.
So what’s the point? Well, obviously, Andrew Bynum reads my blog, and I wanted to demonstrate to him my dissatisfaction with his lackluster play. Basically, I just want to see Andrew put his (huge stacks of) money where his mouth is, and show that he can be relied upon for a consistent effort, regardless of how many touches he gets. It’s somewhat ironic that Bynum should have this problem, as the two other Laker big men (DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell only count as Laker big boys), the wily vets Pau and Lamar, who AB17 should be learning from, are two of the best in the game at bringing it not matter how few offensive touches they get. Young Andrew Bynum, you’re our only hope. So please, start being more of a mensch.