Thursday, June 26, 2014

The best game of Andrew Bynum's career as a Cleveland Cavalier was a 20-Point, 10 Rebound, 5 Block (His career high), 3 assist effort in a November 30th, 2013 home win against the Chicago Bulls. There is a fan made YouTube highlight mix of this game.  It is a bitter joke.
Right in the middle a season where he car-bombed TWO teams and probably put an end to his NBA career, the man is here toying with the future NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Soft touch on a fadeaway in the lane. Stuffing him at the rim. Turnaround push shot. Duncan-esq bank shot. The Youtube commentators are pumped:

Austin Carr is tidal wave of joy. "Oh ho ho. The big fella is bringing out some of his arsenal tonight!" "Nice up and under move by the big fella!" A trademark "Get that weak stuff outta here!" when Bynum blocks a Hinrich layup attempt. He even (Erroneously, even in his best season Bynum had a 1.4/2.5 AST/TOV ratio) exalts Bynum's willing passing after a jump pass out of a post up. Austin's unbridled joy made sense at the time, when one could still construct a reality where Bynum might be on his way back. But in retrospect, this performance and these exaltations are an insane joke. His career in Cleveland ended when he jacked up a shot every time he touched the ball during a practice scrimmage. Then he went to Indiana, where his arrival marked a precipitous downturn in the fortunes of the Pacers. With bum knees he poisoned the wells of every town that had him.

There is a moment that nods at the darkness to come. When Bynum forces a shot clock violation with yet another block on the outmatched Noah, announcer Fred McLeod mentions his smile. "And Smiling! Perhaps his first as a Cavalier!" In that moment, we see the worms and mildew underneath this performance. He's playing well tonight, but he has been apparently miserable in Cleveland. Fred tries to frame it as a new day, the first smile of many, a young man making his way in the great City of Cleveland. But he knew. He was around the team. Bynum was hurting and everyone was turning on each other. There was no real hope here.

What made Bynum do this? Perhaps Noah's very shout-y hustle-bullshit existence annoy him so much that he decided to impose his size for a night, damn the knee pain. Maybe it was a full moon. Maybe all his knee parts were lined up perfect for one night and he figured "Fuck it" and went out and did work because what else was he gonna do out there. The post game interviews don't provide any clues: Bynum just told reporters that the performance felt good and that he hoped his knees would feel okay the next day.

The video ends with McLeod's voice. "And the good time, the good feeling is back in the Q!"

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