Ken Berger joined the Tim Brando Show on the CBS Sports Network Thursday to talk about the trade rumors that continue to swirl around Dwight Howard before his 2012 free agency. Berger says that Howard is interested in the Los Angeles Lakers should he choose to leave Orlando. Ken breaks down the scenario in the above video. But what stands in the way for L.A. is owner Jim Buss' favoritism towards Andrew Bynum. Should the Lakers surrender Bynum in order to win now with Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant? Is it time to give up on the Bynum experiment? The window is open for the Lakers. All that stands in their way is the Bynum Dilemma.
By Matt Moore
Jim Buss made the call to draft Andrew Bynum for the Los Angeles Lakers. As he has worked his way towards taking the reins from father Jerry in running the most successful (at least profit-wise) team in the National Basketball Association, one thing has been clear. Andrew Bynum is his guy. In May, Bynum was described as "untouchable" in trade talks by Yahoo Sports. Longtime Lakers scribe Roland Lazenby described how the younger Buss was setting up Bynum as the future of the franchise. It was thought that any talks of Dwight Howard following in Shaquille O'Neal's footsteps yet again by going from Orlando to Los Angeles, the kind of market his ego and commercial appeal craves, would be dashed by the Lakers' firm support of Bynum as the franchise of the future.
But Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported Wednesday night that all could be changing:
It's no surprise to anyone that the Lakers will be one of the primary suitors in a possible trade for Howard, and a person with knowledge of the team's strategy told CBSSports.com that executive Jim Buss finally has dropped his opposition to trading center Andrew Bynum "for the right deal." That's code for "a deal for Dwight Howard," and it's clear from those familiar with Howard's thinking that he'd like to join the Lakers. Bynum may or may not be on the Magic's list of suitable replacements for Howard in a potential deal that also would have to include young players on rookie contracts and draft picks. The Bucks' Andrew Bogut may be a better fit, a notion that has conjured speculation in the agent community of a three-team deal that would land Bynum in Milwaukee, Bogut in Orlando and Howard in L.A.via Post-Ups: Free agency signing days away, but frenzy exists - NBA - CBSSports.com Basketball.
And so the Lakers are faced with the Bynum Dilemma. Do you abandon the stud of the future (and more assets) to win now with the pieces you have from a two-time championship team? Do you give up Bynum when he's just 25?
For years, Bynum has been talked about as being elite before his time. His potential has been there. The metrics to indicate his readiness has been there. But I've remained skeptical, wanting Bynum to establish himself as what he's talked about. There are too many question marks around Bynum, starting first and foremost with his injuries. Multiple knee surgeries in his early years leave an incomplete picture of his long-term health. More concerning than the injuries, though was his reaction to those injuries. He sought out his own doctors, took longer than expected each time with rehab, and was found to be partying his way through most of his recovery time.
And yet, he was a huge part of why the Lakers won their second title, and a huge part of why the Lakers were still the favorites to win the West last year. He improved on both ends of the floor. If Greg Oden was the injured star young center whose defense was ahead of his offense, it was flipped with Bynum, and he started to show more at both ends. His aggressivenes took the form of a near-recklesness, including the time he accidentally gave Gerald Wallace a collapsed lung. Bynum has shown to be willing to give the hard foul, to use his body to intimidate other players. He gives Dwight Howard his toughest challenge outside of Kendrick Perkins and the Boston defense.
But there's a flip side to that as well. His actions border upon dangerous, as evidenced by fouls given to Michaael Beasley and most notably a blatant cheap shot to J.J. Barea in the Mavs' sweep of L.A. leading to a suspension for Bynum to start the season. Dwight Howard racks up the technicals, and has been known to throw an elbow or four, but this kind of behavior is not his bag.
There's no question Howard is better right now. He's an MVP candidate, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, maybe the most influential player on the floor at both ends. But to acquire him, the Lakers would have to surrender the new head honcho's big project, his pet player, the icon of the next generation of Lakers greatness. They'd likely have to surrender more assets like picks (they won't use), and supporting players (they don't need).
However, this is the Lakers. They never seem to need the same things other teams need, like draft picks, cap space, or stockpiled talent. They simply find ways to reload based on the attractiveness of their market, the mystique of their logo, and the savvy of their management. Surrendering Bynum would be a hard pill to swallow for the son trying to make his own name, set his own legacy. But it could also lead to the Lakers extending the title contention of Kobe Bryant until he's 40, and render the luxury tax meant to withhold the Lakers' spending in the new CBA moot, between an even stronger popularity with Howard and their new television deal which pays them $5 billion over 25 years.
Also, it should be noted Bynum has just two more years left on his contract. In 2013, should the answer as to whether Bynum will ever fulfill his promise still have a mixed answer, the Lakers would be looking at a max contract (as they already set that precedent for him with his last deal) for a 27-year-old with the same litany of issues as currently. If the next two years are his rise to dominance, great. If not, the Lakers will have wasted a shot at Dwight Howard's prime and be forced to weigh the answer as to whether and what to play Bynum.
So the answer to the Bynum dilemma is this: the tantalizing potential does not equal the assurance of dominance now. Bynum has million-dollar athleticism, on bad wheels with faulty operating software. Jim Buss may want to make his own name with his own path, but he would do well to remember what has always made the Lakers great. Demanding excellence, now and always.