Andrew Bynum was the prized offseason acquisition for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were able to get the former All Star at a discount price because of his recent injuries. The Cavaliers believed that if they could get Bynum healthy, they could help the 26-year old return to the elite level he demonstrated while with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bynum has been healthy for most of the season, appearing in 20 of Cleveland's 24 games and starting 15 of those, yet has not had the impact many except out of the center when full go.
Bynum has had big nights this season, including a 20 point, 13 rebound performance against the Atlanta Hawks earlier this month and a 20 and 10 night against the Chicago Bulls last month. Unfortunately, those are the only two double-doubles for a player that should average that this season.
So what has gone wrong for Bynum?
At first the issues were attributed to the center gelling with his teammates. There were several new pieces on this roster and things had to fall into place. There has now been enough time for this to take place, yet Bynum has not shown the potential on a nightly basis.
One issue that was raised this week was how the Cavaliers get the ball into the seven-footer. In the first half against the Trailblazers, Bynum scored 13 points on six shots, but finished the game with those same numbers. The Blazers double teamed and fronted in the second half and Bynum was a non-factor.
Head coach Mike Brown attributes this to young players who have not played with a big man before.
"The reality is for us right now as a young team that really hasn't played a ton with a big like that, we have a tough time," Brown said.
"You watch any game we play and teams front him, we have a tough time getting him the ball. Sometimes it brings us to a standstill and makes us real stagnant offensively."
It seems that this would be coachable. "Here's how we're going to get the ball to Andrew. When they front him, these are our strategies. If they double team, we do this." Apparently the coaches have been attempting to work on the issue and have something in mind.
"We have something," Brown said. "We ran it late in the game. We just didn't execute it well. We got Andrew the ball and I think he turned it over, or stepped out of bounds, or something like that. But we have a couple of things that we like, where we feel we can get him the ball anytime we want to."
Brown did say that there are things that they like, but they just put it in recently and it is taking time to get "a rhythm down." It sounds like these should be run more often in order to get them working properly.
Bynum has his own ideas about what would be best to get him the ball when teams don't play him straight up.
"You can only do it two ways," Bynum said on Wednesday. " You can throw it over the top or you can move the ball. Like I said, right now, I think we should move the ball and play our backside action."
The Cavaliers have had issues moving the ball this year, which could be part of the problem getting the ball in the paint to Bynum. Cleveland has not had a player like Bynum in recent memory. Their centers over the last several years have been a combination of Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and a washed up Shaquille O'Neal.
Bynum should be better than all of these players, but requires the touches in the paint.
What is interesting is that Bynum had the best year of his career under Brown as a Laker. He averaged career highs in points (18.7) and rebounds (8.6) in 2011-12. This was a very different team, featuring Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, but Bynum was able to get his touches close to the basket.
Right now the Cavaliers are a guard-centric team with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters leading the way. If they are able to figure out how to get Bynum involved consistently, this team becomes much more diverse. They are able to still use their talented guards, but can pound teams in the paint with Bynum, Thompson, Varejao and Zeller.
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