Not so long ago, Andrew Bynum was a pivotal piece in the Los Angeles Lakers' back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. After a failed first year away from California as the key figure in a supposed rebirth of the Philadelphia 76ers, Bynum signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers after sitting out every game the previous season.
His return as a Cav was supposed to be a risk-free, low-salary maneuver aimed at luring LeBron James back to the team during the superstar's upcoming free agency. But the early portion of the season has been a nightmare for everyone in the Cleveland organization. Recently, the Cavaliers announced they have suspended Bynum indefinitely and will either look to trade him or release him by Jan. 7, when an escalator clause in his contract is scheduled to kick in. Should Bynum be released by the team, where will the big man with chronic knee issues and a penchant for strange behavior turn next? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: No matter how bad his attitude or how bad his knees are, there's always going to be a market for Bynum considering his 7-foot, 285-pound frame and scoring ability. At one point, Bynum's name was in heavy discussion as the best center in the NBA. Things haven't gone well in Cleveland so far this season with poor play and team turmoil stunting the team's growth. Bynum's previous year in Philadelphia was also surrounded by a failing organization, so it's an overstatement to say he was the cause of failures in his last two stops.
Green: Between the funny hair, the funny attitude and the trick knees, I think the NBA is getting ready to see the last of Bynum. It was a great run by the center, but unless a top-shelf organization like the Miami Heat or Lakers are bringing him in, he simply doesn't respect the league enough to give it 100 percent. The Cavaliers were a good option for him, and somehow he managed to squander that and get himself suspended from the team. There were reports claiming he said he "wasn't interested in basketball," and you're expecting him to land on another roster? I don't think so.
Riley: Reports, rumors and media-made stories aren't going to cloud NBA executives' minds if they're trying to find a proven center. That's exactly what Bynum is. The extra drama is obviously a bit much, but teams have put up with more from other players that aren’t nearly as good as Bynum. Even at 80 percent, Bynum can be a difference-maker on a team, as we saw when the Lakers faced the Boston Celtics with him in the lineup. He can still make a huge difference just by clogging the paint and raising his arms. Cleveland may have been a bad idea, and Philadelphia obviously didn't work out. But glory tends to cover gaffes and the title-controlling center that Bynum used to be will be all general managers and player personnel guys consider if Bynum is actually released from Cleveland.
Green: I think Bynum's fate was sealed when the Lakers took Dwight Howard over him two summers ago. The Lakers don't just let prime time talent leave for other pastures, but that's exactly what happened. Los Angeles is obviously a premier franchise so when they don't put up a fight to keep a player, then you have to know that something's going on. Two teams have followed the Lakers and both scenarios have ended horribly for Bynum. There may be a desperate team out there willing to make a gamble, but don't expect the money to be anywhere close to what both Philadelphia and Cleveland offered. Maybe Bynum can use his unique personality in a post-career TV role. I hope so, because his playing career is done at this point.