Denton: Thoughts on Bynum's Status, Meager Wizards & Gasol's Performance

By John Denton
November 26, 2012

ORLANDO – For every action there’s a reaction, so let’s take a look at some of the headlines surrounding the NBA and offer up a reaction.

ACTION: The Philadelphia 76ers announced recently that center Andrew Bynum is out indefinitely after re-injuring his surgically repaired knee while bowling.

REACTION: Considering that Bynum has yet to play this season for the 76ers and may never do so because of ``the weakened state of cartilage’’ in his knee, it’s time to commend Magic GM Rob Hennigan and VP/Assistant GM Scott Perry for not dealing for the former Lakers’ center in the offseason.

Several national writers took shots at the Magic and their rookie GM in early August when they traded disgruntled star Dwight Howard to the Lakers and passed on Bynum (and Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala) in return. After all, Bynum was coming off his best season in the NBA last year, made the all-star team and was finally showing signs of becoming a franchise center that a team could build around.

There was only one problem – well, make that two problems: His right and left knees. Bynum’s joints were so bad that that he needed a procedure done last February at the All-Star break and another done as soon as the Lakers were eliminated from the second round of the playoffs last spring. He even went to Germany for a controversial procedure, but it’s done little to alleviate the pain in his knees.

Factor in Bynum’s long history of injuries and questionable judgments on and off the court, and it’s easy to see that Hennigan made the right call in passing on Bynum.

Imagine the vitriol around Orlando these days had the Magic taken Bynum and then been forced to watch him not even play because of two bad knees. Hennigan wasn’t around when the Magic signed Grant Hill while on crutches in 2000, but Orlando fans will never forget how Hill’s recurring injuries crippled the franchise for almost a decade. The Magic couldn’t have that happen again, so the decision was made to pass on Bynum (knee injuries) and New Jersey’s Brook Lopez (foot injuries).

Whereas the Magic’s haul in the Howard trade was panned at the time, a little revision might prove that Orlando got more for Howard than first realized. In Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless, the Magic got back three starters with bright upsides. Afflalo is a borderline all-star and the Magic’s leading scorer; Vucevic will average a double-double for years to come; and Harkless is loaded with potential as a do-everything wing player. That incoming trio, along with a core of Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu, has steadied the franchise and helped the Magic be much more competitive so far than many projected.

Add in the expected return of veteran forward Al Harrington in a couple of weeks and the Magic could be armed with four starters in return for Howard. No, they didn’t win in trading away Howard, and no team ever does when having to unload a star player.

And, no they didn’t get a star with a resume such as Bynum’s while in L.A. But considering Bynum’s injury-riddled plight so far in Philadelphia and the deft moves that Hennigan made in getting as much as possible for Howard, it’s hard not to argue that the Magic didn’t make the best of a bad situation from last summer.

ACTION: Despite an offseason of several moves, the Washington Wizards are again one of the NBA’s worst teams and still winless at 0-12.

REACTION: The woeful Wizards became just the 12th team in NBA history to start a season 0-12 when they were outscored in all four quarters and easily routed by San Antonio on Monday night.

Despite the losing, the Wizards have actually been competitive, dropping 12 games by 96 points or eight points a night. Until Monday’s 26-point debacle, they hadn’t been beaten by more than 16 points all season. And Washington lost twice in overtime (to Charlotte and Atlanta) in excruciating fashion. Six of the losses – twice to Boston, twice to Indiana, Dallas and San Antonio – have come against teams expected to be in the playoffs.

Washington is just six losses away from equaling New Jersey’s 0-18 start in 2009-10, and it could get close to that mark with games ahead against Portland, New York, Miami and Atlanta. If the Wizards don’t win Dec. 8 at home against Golden State, they could tie the Nets’ record for futility in New Orleans on Dec. 11.

Things have gotten so bad that one of the NBA’s zaniest players, Andray Blatche, is even cracking on the Wizards now. Washington foolishly awarded Blatche a contract extension a few years back and proceeded to watch him slog through games out of shape and without a care in the world. The Wizards used their amnesty clause on him last summer and now remarkably he’s thriving in Brooklyn where head coach Avery Johnson is holding him accountable.

John Wall hasn’t played yet because of surgery to his left knee, while Nene missed the first nine games with a foot injury, played twice and had to sit out again on Monday. Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, offseason additions from New Orleans, have fizzled with the Wiz. The return of Wall and Nene will surely help, but you wonder if the will to win will still be there by mid-December for a franchise that can seem to do no right.

ACTION: Just days after being benched by new L.A. coach Mike D’Antoni, Lakers forward Pau Gasol admits that he is struggling with tendinitis in both of his knees.

REACTION: The coaching change in Los Angeles has done little to improve things for Gasol, who continues to be dogged by poor play and swirling rumors that he could be traded in the coming weeks. Gasol is easily one of the most skilled big men in the NBA, but his confidence is continuously fragile and his game is far too inconsistent for the liking of many in Los Angeles.

A week ago, he complained about not getting enough touches in the post because he has to share the lane with Howard. Gasol is an adept passer from the high post, but playing there often makes him passive and unwilling to attack. It appears the paint isn’t big enough for both Howard and Gasol.

Tendinitis is a painful injury and you have to wonder if playing all summer during the Olympics has something to do with the discomfort that Gasol, 32, is feeling in his knees. But could the injury be the Lakers’ way of hiding their big man before dealing him in the near future?

Clearly, the Lakers’ age and lack of speed do not fit D’Antoni’s desires to run and gun. He prefers to play with forwards who can sprint down the floor, fill lanes and use their athleticism at the rim. With aging guards Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant and two big men in Howard and Gasol, D’Antoni can’t exactly play the style that helped him win the Lakers job.

(Just a side note on D’Antoni’s recent hiring – I think the Lakers’ brass knew they wanted to hire D’Antoni all along and just conducted a cursory visit with Phil Jackson to minimize the PR hit of not hiring a coach with 11 championships. D’Antoni was cheaper, less confrontational and willing to play an up-tempo style favored by ownership. If you don’t think D’Antoni was the wrong hire, just watch Howard’s poor body language during games. Clearly, Dwight wanted Phil and his big-man-dominated triangle offense.)

Atlanta’s Josh Smith has been rumored to be a target of the Lakers because of his off-the-charts athleticism and versatility when it comes to playing multiple positions. D’Antoni would likely use him in the same role that he had Shawn Marion in Phoenix nearly a decade ago.

But if Lakers’ fans find Gasol maddening wait until they get a load of Smith and his wandering focus and ill-advised 3-point shots. Gasol certainly has his flaws and possesses one of the league’s most untradeable contracts, but L.A. would be wise to stay away from Smith and hang onto a 7-footer who is willing to play team basketball.

The Lakers will have more success incorporating Gasol than they will breaking up the team just to fit D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-or-less style of play.

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