The NBA does not seem to realize that these are the holidays and people might be busy with other stuff. Not only did the Clippers play on Christmas night and the day after Christmas, those games were both controversial and wildly exciting -- and in between all the NBA did was admit that their officials had made a monumental mistake in Oakland in Christmas night.
I was really ready to sleep in today -- and I even shirked my responsibility to write a Utah preview last night because it's the holidays and I wanted to shirk a little. So what happens? Andrew Bynum gets suspended in Cleveland and the Clippers get mentioned as a possible landing spot for the center.
I'm obviously a little late to this party, but better late than never, right? Besides, this situation will take some time to resolve itself. The magic date is January 7, ten days from now. Whatever team Bynum is on at that time can save $6M against their cap this season by waiving him before January 7 -- which is almost certainly going to happen.
So how do I feel about the prospect of Bynum on the Clippers?
Basketball is basketball and winning is winning, and frankly, as much as I dislike Andrew Bynum and think he's an immature punk, if the Clippers can get it for the NBA minimum, them of course they should. Or rather, let me modify that statement a bit -- if Doc Rivers and Chris Paul want him on the team, then who am I to disagree?
Bynum is massive and also massively talented. There was a time when he appeared poised to be the best center in the NBA -- a time not that long ago. His combination of size and post moves is beyond rare in the NBA at this point; it's almost non-existent (Brook Lopez is pretty much the only one in the conversation). He also has the knees of a 60 year old and the temperament of a 4 year old, factors that limit his effectiveness somewhat.
But in the right situation, playing for a strong coach who relates well to players (hello Doc) on a team with strong on court leadership that can show him the way to behave and won't take any crap from him (hey there Chris), Bynum could be a monster. Would he be wiling to be the third big in the Clippers rotation? Well, according to Bill Simmons, the Clippers are one of two teams for which he'd like to play and presumably he realizes that he wouldn't be coming to L.A. to start. (Although Andrew's not the brightest bulb in the Lamps Plus so maybe he doesn't realize that.)
Let's go through a couple of key elements here. The Clippers will certainly not get involved in trading for Bynum. No one who makes anywhere close to as much as Bynum would be an option in trade, so you'd be looking at a package of players along the lines of Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley and Willie Green just to make the math work. That's not happening.
If the Cavs are able to trade him, it will almost certainly be to a team looking to use the non-guaranteed portion of his contract to shed salary. The Chicago Bulls are the obvious choice, as they could save a ton of money with a Luol Deng for Bynum deal. There may be other teams eyeing Bynum's unique contract for the purposes of saving money, but Cleveland can do that by waiving him themselves, so it would have to be worth their while.
There is almost no chance that any team would trade for him with the intention of actually trying to retain him. He's too big of a risk with a long history of incidents and coming off back-to-back franchise-crippling seasons in Philadelphia and Cleveland. So one way or the other, Bynum is going to be a free agent on January 10th when he clears waivers or whenever he clears waivers.
So then what? There will be teams that will be willing and able to pay him more than the NBA minimum -- but if Bynum and his people have already thrown Miami and the Clippers out there, it would seem to indicate that winning is going to be prioritized over money. Neither the Heat nor the Clippers can offer him anything more than the veteran's minimum and a role -- so it may come down to which role he thinks will be better. And of course there's no guarantee that either team will make the offer, but it seems likely. Would the fact that Bynum used to live in L.A. and had his best seasons in STAPLES Center be a factor? It's hard to know.
This whole scenario actually reflects an aspect of the NBA I truly dislike (that is, beyond the corrupting effects of money and prestige on a 17 year old who never even spent a day in college): the advantages of the haves over the have nots. A supremely talented individual like Andrew Bynum does nothing to help a struggling team in Cleveland get better, and then sulks his way into a suspension. And in the end, he'll likely wind up playing deep into the postseason, helping an already very good team become even better. It would be one thing if those good teams were having to pay a premium for this advantage -- but in this case they're going to get a discount. The Heat have won back-to-back NBA titles -- do they really need a former All Star starter for the NBA minimum? Bynum should almost be forced to play in Charlotte or Utah as punishment for bad behavior, not rewarded. Of course, even though bad teams have plenty of incentive to get good, they also have to think in the long term, and can't take a short term gamble on a player like Bynum, so bad teams probably wouldn't be interested anyway. But still, it's unseemly to have the rich get richer.
Of course, it feels very different now that the Clippers are in the 'rich' category for the first time in history.