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Andrew Bynum’s “two steps up, one step back” dance with maturity continues

Apr 7, 2012, 11:59 AM EDT

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

I remember seeing Andrew Bynum as a 17-year-old at Summer League — then held in Long Beach, California — just weeks after being drafted. Two things stuck out to me at those games and interviews:

1) He and his game were so immature. Raw doesn’t even do his game justice. This was raw like sharks eating a seal. His footwook was non-existent as he took little hooks off the wrong foot and got pushed around in the post by the men who had come to earn a spot on an NBA roster. There were flashes of what was to come — his incredible length and potential were evident — but it was going to be a long road.

2) He was confident. He was convinced even then he would be the starting All-Star center one day. Early in his rookie year he said he hoped Kobe Bryant would still be playing at an All-Star level when he got there. He was sure he would grow to be the anchor of the Lakers front line.

Kevin Ding reminded me of this is a fantastic column at the Orange County Register Friday, which touches on the maturation of Bynum.

How does Andrew Bynum now compare to the Andrew Bynum the Lakers have employed the previous six years? The simple answer is that Bynum, 24, is rather the same yet critically better in all the most important ways.

Yes, there’s more edge, impatience and ego. (And those are some of things that swelled in Bryant over the years, no?)… We want it all now. If Bynum can score like a grown man now, he should act like one!

Well, all teams want their star players to be all things, and the reality is none of those guys are going to be. Deal with it, work with it and in some cases even cater to it to keep your star around for a chance to win.

Andrew Bynum’s edge has come out a lot in recent weeks — most recently in a silly ejection in the Lakers Friday night loss to the Rockets. He picked up an early technical and was clearly frustrated with physical play from Samuel Dalembert. The Lakers coaches warned him he had a tech and to keep his cool. But he couldn’t — after one play he jawed at the Rockets bench and the refs hit him with a second technical. He wasn’t there when the Lakers needed him late (his defense really wasn’t there all night, he had taken a mental vacation).

It was stupid — Bynum still puts himself ahead of his teammates. That is frustrating to Lakers fans and coaches, and certainly teammates.

But to suggest (as some have done) that Bynum hasn’t matured is a mistake. First and foremost, his game has matured. He worked hard to fill out his frame, he worked on drop steps, power moves and more until he is a deserving All-Star center. He even can throw in some threes at the end of quarters or the end of meaningless games — just not early in the shot clock in the third quarter of a tight game.

That is the next step in Bynum’s maturation — picking a time and place. There are times he can take a three and the Lakers coaches will not care. There are times to bark at the opposing bench and times to hold it in. Bynum hasn’t got that timing down.

But Bynum has grown up — he is a complex person, not a two-dimensional NBA player. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more avid reader in the league. He is thoughtful. To every game he wears an English Premiere League soccer jersey because he’s a fan. He is not a simple person.

He has matured. But it remains a “two steps up, one step back” process. As it did with me when I was 24, and it probably was with most of you. He just is doing it on a big stage under bright lights, and so we expect him not to make the mistakes we did.

That’s not going to happen. Mistakes will.

But in the end what is the Lakers real option? They have to pick up his option for next year and work to get him to sign a max extension to stay with the Lakers. He is their bridge to the future. Which gives Bynum real leverage in all this. And young people with leverage can be unpredictable.

Deal with it.

  1. scalfor3 - Apr 7, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    so he’s matured because he wears soccer jerseys? maybe he’s more mature than he was at 17, but the dude still acts like a 4 year old most of the time

    • smoothaswilkes - Apr 7, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      reading comprehension? the EPL jerseys went to his complexity not maturity. reread the post.

      and, yes, he still acts like a 4 year. the point being not everyone was mature at 24. again, try rereading the post. you’ll probably get it after the 4th or 5th time.

    • cosanostra71 - Apr 7, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      like I said a couple weeks ago, I am the same age as Bynum, and I still think he’s immature. 24 is young, but we’re not teenagers for Christ’s sake. We are old enough to vote, enlist in the army, drink, even old enough to rent a car! I don’t know if he’s just dgafing or what, but start acting like a grown up Andrew!

  2. savvybynature - Apr 7, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    “all teams want their star players to be all things, and the reality is none of those guys are going to be”
    Apparently this guy has never heard of Tim Duncan….

  3. digitalpoo - Apr 7, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    Kurt you are a terrible writer.

    • 4thquartermagic - Apr 7, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      Agreed. Reading this article made me want to shove somebody, take my shirt off, and go home for the summer.

      • zxrated - Apr 7, 2012 at 1:55 PM

        LMBO

      • purplelagold - Apr 7, 2012 at 4:24 PM

        Hahahaha..!!!

  4. kandh2004 - Apr 7, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    @digitalpoo I totally agree with you. This guy goes so far out of his way to kiss up to certain players it makes me sick. And if you play for the Lakers you can do no wrong in this guys eyes. Bynum is a baby still this is the reason they need to up the age limit

  5. sfm073 - Apr 7, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    I think you mean 1 step forward 2 steps back.

    • rexismybff - Apr 7, 2012 at 11:38 PM

      No he doesn’t. RTFA.

  6. massivedick - Apr 7, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    he feels entitled. when he does not get his way he acts out. he a spoil little brat. he may never mature.

  7. tibbs7 - Apr 7, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    I do not remember being 24 and having an organization and marketing team work with me for years. Then at ever turn make them cringe with my decisions and ultimately did not take any of the advice. Bynum may have matured but he is still a piece of work.

  8. 4thquartermagic - Apr 7, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Your giving Bynum a free pass to be an idiot because he’s “young???”

    HE chose to grow up and play NBA ball at a young age.

    HE signed up for the fame, the money, and the responsibility.

    HE knew being adult would have to come with all that.

    Coddling is what gives young people with great personalities the freedom to turn into delta bravos…. (looking at you King James)

  9. cdins - Apr 7, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    I only read nbc for up to date news. Not to read articles by writers trying to be thought provoking or justifying how a grown with a ton of cash and support is still aloud to be a baby. Its called being a professional. But someone will still give him a max deal cuz hes 7 feet and he’ll still be like this when hes 30.

  10. chargrz - Apr 7, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    Bynum is a Jive Azz Punk

  11. rooney24 - Apr 7, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    Bynum is incredibly immature. He expects everything handed to him, because he has likely gotten it forever. I would bet that he is broke once he is out of the league for 5 years or so. He just seems to have that type of personality.

    As far as taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back, that is only true if you accept that he is still 87 steps from where he needs to be in order to develop into a responsible human being.

    • rexismybff - Apr 7, 2012 at 11:40 PM

      Good lord – it’s not like he’s robbing banks. What do you think Shaq and Barkley were doing at 24? I can tell you – they were getting kicked out of games.

  12. tsi431 - Apr 7, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    It’s a sad day in the NBA when you get a technical foul for jabbering with the bench players. What a joke.

    I wouldn’t call Bynum immature. He doesn’t come to the Staples arena wearing a spiderman tshirt and mickey mouse ears. He has an anger management problem. The same issue most players in all sports have during the game. Its the adrenaline.

  13. purplelagold - Apr 7, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    I’m not against a management decision to suspend him one or two games… I can’t take it anymore. This is getting ridiculous. This guy needs to be educated ASAP. Smells like a furture Sheed in the making..We are battling for a playoff position for Christ’s sake !?!

  14. hoodheisman - Apr 7, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    Great post. I think a lot of that assessment is spot on. A lot of these guys who never played in college really seem to flash their immaturity at terrible times. We saw it with LeBron and his ridiculous “The Decison”, but LeBron played in a small market with a fraction of the media attention. We saw it with Kobe at times, but guys like Phil Jackson, Jerry West, and Magic Johnson share a lot of the credit for showing Kobe how to be a professional and reigning this garbage in. That’s part of the problem with Bynum. He plays in a market where everything he does is magnified and in an organization that’s now completely devoid of leadership. The only guy left to learn from would be Kobe and possibly Kareem. So this is going to be a much more erratic process.

  15. fm31970 - Apr 7, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    “To every game he wears an English Premiere League soccer jersey because he’s a fan. He is not a simple person.”

    Wearing a soccer jersey makes you…more mature? Complex? Not a simpleton like those who don’t wear soccer jerseys?

    Bynum knows he’s in control, and the Lakers should do what the Magic did with Howard to get control back- threaten to trade him to a non-contender. If I’m the Lakers, I gladly trade him for Dwight this off-season. Bynum has just about peaked, while Howard is still improving, and if Bynum is only the “bridge” to the future instead of being the future anchor, why keep him?

  16. lakerluver - Apr 7, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    I trust that he will eventually mature. It’s up to the ownership and Kobe to help with the process.

  17. grimreeper - Apr 7, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    Why should Kobe help him? Bynum is a grown man not a baby, Kobe is bot his dad so why does Kobe have anything to do with being mature. Grow up Bynum and stop acting like a pissed off teenager! Asshole!!! Don’t think he’s all that good anyway!!!!!

  18. skavenbrew - Apr 7, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    Great article. Re read it if you disagree, there’s a lot of sense in here. Laker fans need to calm down.

  19. abasketballthing - Apr 7, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    There have been many NBA players, in the same spotlight, who have been much more mature than Bynum at that age. It’s easy to compare him to regular people, because there’s no way to prove most people haven’t acted that way, but there is documentation of the way those NBA players have behaved, which proves that Bynum is in fact less mature than he should be at this point.

  20. omniusprime - Apr 8, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Rome wasn’t built in a day, so give Andrew Bynum some space to grow up. Let’s not forget that too many players who are way too young are being drafted into pro sports long before they’re ready. One of the worst things the NBA has done is bring young kids in from high school, don’t blame Bynum for being immature blame that fool David Stern. Not many high school kids can make the transition quickly like Kobe did, most stay immature for many years like LeBoring and Andrew.

    Nope the NBA needs to stop raiding high schools for jail bait, there should be a rule that the NBA can’t take kids until after the second year of college so players are more mature and educated before entering the bigs!

  21. telergy - Apr 9, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    LOL all this trade Bynum talk is ridiculous… Especially for Mr Quitter aka I-wannabe -Shaq- wishy -washy Dwight Howard.

    Bynum knows what he’s doing. I don’t think this season of success has got to his ego. He had the ego and mean streak when he came into the league.

    My feelings are he doesn’t respect the coaching staff (hes been fined reportedly multiple times)and therefore has this IDGAF selfish attitude which ultimately hurts the team. You mean to say if Phil Jackson was still coaching he’d be popping off like this? NO.

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