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Bynum Joins Team, Eager to Get Started

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

February 7, 2014

Andrew Bynum, the newest member of the Pacers, joined his new team for the first time Friday morning. After arriving at 9 a.m., he went around to meet various staff members he’ll be working with, checked out his locker, and later put on his jersey.

But first, the 7-foot center and 2012 All-Star followed his new teammates to the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, as the team held their usual one-hour shootaround to prepare for Friday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

After taking part in some light shooting, Bynum stood against a wall wearing a white dri-fit Pacers t-shirt, and addressed the media for the first time since signing with the Pacers on Feb. 1. As Indianapolis native George Hill saw the media swarm of almost two dozen reporters around the newest member of the Pacers, he shouted, “L.A. media!”

“It feels good [to be here],” Bynum said. “My first shootaround went well. I think the system is good. They play through the bigs. It was just a great fit, a great opportunity to win.”

Bynum’s arrival was delayed, as he had to deal with a few things, like moving and Indy’s unusual winter.

As Bynum spoke, it became clear that the "atmosphere" in Indiana was very important and a big selling point in his decision to join the Pacers. Bynum used the word at least a half-dozen times during his five-minute media session.

“It’s a lot easier to fit in here and be positive because the entire atmosphere is already that way,” he said.

Bynum, who’s just 26 years old, played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2005-2012, and was part of their back-to-back championship teams in 2009 and 2010. He averaged 11.7 points and 7.8 with the Lakers, including a career-best 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 2011-12.

After being traded to Philadelphia in a four-team trade in Aug. 2012, Bynum missed all of last season with the Sixers because of knee injuries. He with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason and appeared in 24 games this season, averaging 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Cleveland opted to trade him on Jan. 7 to the Chicago Bulls, who immediately waived him to save the cap space.

“It wasn’t that it didn’t work, it’s just the atmosphere over there wasn’t the one that kind of promoted positive energy,” Bynum said of his short time in Cleveland. “It was just tough, at the end of the day. There’s nothing really more to be said about it. They did everything they could for me. I went there, worked hard, got myself into shape and that was the goal.

“There’s always going to be questions, it’s part of the business we’re in,” he said. “All I can do is go play.”

Bynum will play, but it won’t be anytime soon. He has already passed a physical, but will be receiving more detailed tests and working with the team’s trainers to design a workout program best suited to his needs.

“We’ll come back from the All-Star break and see how practices go over the next week or two after that before we start deciding if he’s ready,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "We want him to be comfortable.”

Vogel said there’s a very minor concern, like with any change, that adding Bynum to the locker room could negatively affect the Pacers, who have the league’s best record (38-10).

“We got a strong culture here,” he said. “We believe Andrew’s a good person, a good guy, and a hard worker, and we think it’ll fit – we think it’ll work.”

For all the talk that he’s a locker room problem, not a hard worker, and not dependable, Bynum is confident in his abilities and eager to play.

But first, he must get into shape, become comfortable with his teammates, and learn the Pacers’ system, which focuses on defense. Since leaving Cleveland, Bynum has spent the last six weeks, in his word, “Just relaxing at home, and that’s it.”

When I followed up by asking if he had any kind of workout regimen, he said, “Not really."

“I was out a significant amount of time, but it’s not the end-of-the-world amount of time where I have to go to square zero,” Bynum added.

Paul George was one of the few players that had already communicated with Bynum prior to Friday, though only via text message. He feels that the addition of Bynum provides the team with a player that’s an extension of Hibbert.

“It’s great to have a talent that huge come back and be a part of this team and help us in this journey to win the championship,” said George.

Coach Vogel, who sat at the dinner table with Bynum and his agent, believes the 7-footer is still hungry, wants to play and more importantly, wants to work.

“He had a bad situation the last he was at and we believe it’ll work here,” Vogel said.

While money wasn’t a motivator for him in Philly or Cleveland, Bynum said he is driven by the quest to win a title.

“My primary motivator right now is the opportunity to win...because that’s the most fun, and being around a positive atmosphere,” Bynum said.

After his first visit with the media concluded, Bynum returned to the locker room, put on his No. 17 home jersey and went to a room in the Fieldhouse to have some team photos taken. He hopes the next time he’s in a room like that posing for photos is after a championship.

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