Has Andrew Bynum outgrown Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?
For four years the relationship between the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and Bynum seemed to be a productive one.
Abdul-Jabbar took Bynum under his considerable wing, taught him post skills and footwork, while Bynum listened and grew into one of the brightest young centers in the NBA.
But that relationship now seems to be running its course, at least as far as Bynum is concerned.
Sources close to the team said that Abdul-Jabbar will be playing a lesser role with both the Lakers and Bynum this season.
With his round-the-clock tutoring of Bynum not needed as much, sources said Abdul-Jabbar would likely spend less time with the team and more time back in his hometown of New York City.
All of which seems to be a considerable letdown for the former Lakers captain, who has worked closely with Bynum since the Lakers drafted him out of high school in 2005.
Abdul-Jabbar expressed disappointment in Bynum and the situation, saying that “I think there are things that have to do with basketball that he could learn but he’s getting on in years.”
Bynum said he understood his mentor’s feelings, but that it’s not personal and just a natural evolution for him in his career.
“I understand where he’s coming from,” Bynum said. “It’s definitely tough (for him). As of right now, I have my direction and he’s still helping me. As long as he doesn’t stop helping me everything is going to be fine.”
Over the summer, the two had no contact.
Bynum said that was because he spent only about a week and a half in Los Angeles following the Lakers championship parade on June 17th.
After that, he took a 41-day vacation in Europe and Asia, then went back to Atlanta for a month and a half to work with his personal trainer, Sean Zarzana.
He travelled through Europe with friends, backpacking and riding on trains just like a typical 21-year old kid who just graduated from college.
“I went all over, we did a whole bunch of sightseeing,” Bynum said. “I loved it. My favorite city was Rome. Just the history there, and the art is unbelievable.”
While Abdul-Jabbar expressed disappointment that Bynum was away from basketball for so long, Bynum said it was needed break both personally and professionally.
He also skipped the USA Basketball senior national camp in late July. Though he did not seem upset, Lakers coach Phil Jackson acknowledged Thursday that the team had encouraged Bynum to participate in the camp so he could get more experience on the court.
Bynum said that doctors had advised him to rest his knees, which he has injured in two consecutive seasons.
“I had to take the time off for my knee,” Bynum said. “I feel different, the rest definitely helped me out because it allowed everything to calm down.”
When he came back to the States, he dropped his things off in Los Angeles and headed out to Atlanta to work with Zarzana.
“We did a lot of track and legs. Not very much upper body,” Bynum said. “Other summers I came back a bit bigger up top. My legs were strong, but they aren’t like they are right now. Right now I feel very good, I’m definitely in shape.”
In other summers, Bynum had returned to Los Angeles before training camp began at the end of September and worked with Abdul-Jabbar on his basketball skills.
This year, Abdul-Jabbar said the first time he saw Bynum was at media day on Tuesday morning, the same day training camp began.
“He’s got to figure it out,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Maybe he feels that there are things to be gained by doing it his way. So he’s going to try it his way. I’m available for him, he knows that.”
Bynum said he still intends to work with Abdul-Jabbar in practice and watch film with him, but acknowledged their work won’t be as extensive as it was in the past.
Bynum is in the first year of a four-year, $57.4 million contract, which he signed last fall. He has increased his scoring in each of his first four seasons, averaging a career-high 14.3 points a game last season in 50 games.