Bynum: 'I Owe Joe'

Pistons sparkplug wants to continue his career in Detroit

Will Bynum, who will become a restricted free agent in July, says he wants to continue his career with the Pistons.
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
Last week, Joe Dumars said he had no intention of letting Will Bynum get away when he becomes a restricted free agent in July. This week, Will Bynum says it’s his strong preference to not go anywhere.

“I just hope I find a good opportunity, that’s all I can really hope for,” Bynum told me Thursday in Oklahoma City after an afternoon workout on what was an off day for the team, which wraps up its three-game road trip tonight against the Thunder. “Hopefully, I’m in Detroit. I love Detroit. I love the fans. It’s close to home – it’s pretty much my family now.

“In a sense, I feel like I owe Joe that loyalty because of how loyal he was to me. I feel like that. That was one of the things growing up, in my household, that we really value.”

The Summer of LeBron includes a roster full of NBA All-Stars, franchise-altering talents whose pending free agency for several years has enticed a like number of general managers to shape their decision-making to free cap space for July 1, 2010.

The Pistons will stay out of those headlines. Joe D didn’t see the wisdom in biding his time and waiting for an event that might amount to a Wheel of Fortune spin that could just as easily leave his roster bankrupt of talent.

He jumped in last summer, walking away with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, and when healthy they’ve both shown strong signs that they’ll be just what Dumars hoped: building blocks along with Rodney Stuckey and the three young players he drafted last June for the next Pistons era of title contention.

But he also has made it clear that Bynum is as much a part of his vision for the Pistons’ future as anyone.

“I think what Will has done is solidify himself here as a one of our core guys going forward,” Dumars said. “He has cemented himself as one of the core members here. That’s how we look at him. We look at him as a long-term guy who’s going to grow with this team. Will was given an opportunity last year, when we signed him and brought him aboard, and he’s one of those kids that got the opportunity and he just grabbed it and took it and never let it go. He’s the poster child of when you get that opportunity, don’t let it slip. And he hasn’t. He hasn’t let it slip.

The recent history of restricted free agency tilts heavily in the Pistons’ favor for retaining Bynum, too. But Dumars expects Bynum to stir interest, perhaps especially from teams who go into the summer with plenty of cap space but miss on some of those All-Stars.

“I think there will be people interested in Will,” Dumars said. “I think there will be people interested in Will despite what the economics may be. I look at him as a game-changer and whenever you have a player like that, people are going to be interested. But let me be clear, sitting here right now, we have no notion of letting Will walk out of the door. We’ll re-sign him and he’ll be one of the core members here for a long time.”

Bynum returned to the lineup Wednesday at New Orleans after struggling for weeks with sprains of both ankles. The right one has lingered for a while and the left, which he rolled Dec. 9 at Philadelphia, caused him to miss three games. But he says the left is now better than the right, and the right feels better than it has in a long time.

He sees hope around the corner that the Pistons will soon be at full strength, and when that happens, he thinks they’ll prove they can be one of the league’s more potent teams.

“We definitely can be,” he said. “I knew we could be effective all along. We’re competitors – in practice, in drills, we’re competing, we’re going to the edge. Those are guys you want to lay with, so I knew it would be no problem playing against another team, because we never back down.”

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