At one point or another, it was only logical to assume Andrew Bynum would figure out that he is a professional basketball player. Bynum is 24 years old now, which is still very young; but seven years into his NBA career, he is considered a veteran. Yet, just as he has done repeatedly throughout this season and throughout his career, Bynum has once again acted up. For those of you who haven't heard, the All-Star center said closing out Denver in LA on Tuesday night would be "easy."
If Game 5 was any barometer of this series, doing so will be anything but, as the series shifts back to the high altitude of Denver. The Nuggets played a furious brand of aggressive basketball, precisely the type of basketball you'd expect from a team facing elimination on the road. Bynum, of course, failed to back up his brash and idiotic comments.
The 7-foot center attempted just eight shots on the game. His line, while respectable with 16 points and 11 rebounds, wasn't a true representation of his performance. He was repeatedly out-hustled and out-muscled by Nuggets center JaVale McGee, a Washington Wizards castoff who has apparently found a home in Denver.
"All of us read that, and we definitely wanted to prove him wrong. And we did," he said following the Nuggets' 102-99 win.
Like Bynum, McGee is a super-long 7-foot. Unlike Bynum, however, McGee thrives around the basket by being hyperactive in the paint. His 21 points and 14 rebounds helped propel the 102-99 win, but they also were representative of Bynum's general disinterest.
Trying to figure out Bynum over the years has been as tricky as seeing through an optical illusion. His sheer size and natural ability -- he had a triple-double in Game 1 -- are so vast that at times he looks like the best center in the game. He is a willing and gifted passer, excellent shooter from the high post and displays tremendous low-post moves. Which, is why, time and time again, the Lakers' front office has refused to part ways with him. As hard as it is to believe -- especially after Kobe Bryant's 43-point Game 5 performance -- Bryant will ultimately pass the torch to Bynum. But is it a torch he is willing to accept?
His actions say no: "I didn't let my team down tonight," Bynum said after Game 5.
While it may be unfair to put the loss solely on him, his laziness and lack of intensity was palpable. Aside from letting McGee manhandle him, Bynum -- as in the Dallas series last season -- was painfully slow with help from the side, failing repeatedly to rotate over properly and thwart driving lanes. His lackadaisical effort in a closeout game is alarming enough, but not playing hard after his bulletin board material is simply unjustifiable.
The Lakers, meanwhile, who in an odd twist get Metta World Peace back from suspension, are probably still going to win this series, either in Game 6 or back at home for Game 7. They are far more talented than Denver and still have the game's best closer in Bryant. But for a franchise built on championships and professionalism, Bynum is the absolute antithesis.
One year after being suspended for his brutal blow on then-Mavericks' guard J.J. Barea, his childish behavior is once again at the forefront. And it comes at a time when Kobe and the Lakers need as much rest as they can muster as they head into a second-round series with high-flying Oklahoma City.
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