A broken man, Bynum returns to plethora of boos

A broken man, Bynum returns to plethora of boos
November 8, 2013, 10:15 pm
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Andrew Bynum played a season-high 18 minutes and finished with four points, five rebounds, one assist and one block against the Sixers. (USA Today Images)

When Andrew Bynum finally took the court in Philadelphia, he was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey.

It did not work out here for Bynum. Not in any regard. That much is plain and indisputable. He was paid nearly $16 million while he rehabbed his knees, which were bad before he got to Philly and remained bad after he left. Most of the memories involving Bynum over the last year center on the bizarre -- the bowling incident, the various and questionable hairstyles, the Zapruder-style film of him dancing in Spain.

No one seemed all that upset when the Sixers divorced themselves from the uncomfortable union. Some of the same people who cheered when the Sixers introduced him at the now-infamous public press conference/party were all too happy to open the door and push him through it during the offseason. Not that Bynum minded. He’s not the emotional sort -- or at least he never outwardly displayed his feelings. That remains true.

“It's another game for me,” Bynum said after the Sixers beat the Cavs, 94-79, at the Wells Fargo Center.

The day before Cleveland played the Sixers, the Cavs practiced at Temple. When Bynum was asked about what sort of reception he anticipated, he offered a typical reply.

“I honestly don’t really care,” Bynum said. “I don’t know how they treated me. I was hurt. It is what it is. I’m still hurt. But I’m trying.”

The interview went on like that for a while, Bynum saying he doesn’t care and everyone nodding and knowing it to be true. He said the fans here are “great” and showed him a lot of love, and then he added -- in a voice so soft it was almost a whisper -- “I don’t have any animosity or anything.”

He doesn’t. They do.

Bynum was booed when he came out of the locker room to join the Cavs in the pregame layup line. He was booed while he sat on the bench and watched the proceedings following tipoff. He was booed when he got up and went over to the scorer’s table to check into the game with 3:38 left in the first quarter. He was booed when he touched the ball, booed when he rebounded the ball, booed when he blocked Lavoy Allen.

He was booed. A lot and loudly.

“It was kind of funny,” Bynum said. “It was funny. I was smiling the entire time. It was funny … It was funny to me. I don't know what else I can say about it.”

It should be noted that the crowd did not boo a great player. They booed a broken man, a man fractured mentally and physically, a man who’s all too willing to cop to his pronounced deficiencies.

“It is still career-threatening,” Bynum said about his knees. “I am a shell of myself on the court right now. I am struggling mentally, but I am trying.”

Bynum dunked in Milwaukee the other night. It was the first time he’d done so in a regular-season game in a long while. He said he felt “sharp pain” when he did it.

He entered Friday’s game averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in just under 13 minutes. He is 26 years old, but he seems decades removed from being the player who averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 35.2 minutes per game just two seasons ago.

Against the Sixers on Friday, he played 18 minutes -- a season high. He finished with four points, five rebounds, one assist and one block.

A shell of himself. That seems right.

“I feel like I can still be a double-double guy in this league,” Bynum said, “but it’s going to take some modifications to my game and whether or not I want to accept the challenge and do that.” 

You get the sense that he’s not into challenges these days. Bynum said he’s been frustrated by his health and he’s struggled to “find the joy” in playing. Before too long, he might give up the search and go off and hunt for satisfaction in some other form.

More than once, he has considered retiring. 

“It was a thought,” Bynum admitted. “It was a serious thought. It still is. At the moment, it’s tough to enjoy the game because of how limited I am physically.”

How often does he think about it these days?

“Every now and again,” Bynum said.

One day, maybe soon, Bynum will walk away from the game. Slowly. Gingerly. But when he does, he won’t leave as a dominant paint player. He will depart as a man whose knees quit on him right before his desire did.