Progress has been slow, but it appears Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum is starting to show flashes of his former self after sitting out all of last season and struggling early this year.
Bynum has now totaled arguably his two best performances of the season in back-to-back games. On Saturday, Cleveland's center exploded for season highs of 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a 97-93 win over the Bulls.
In the throwback outing, Bynum showed an array of post moves on offense, a deft touch with the ball and an ability to protect the rim that we hadn't seen from him in a long time. The game marked the former Lakers star's first double-double since May 14, 2012 and his most promising stretch of play since becoming a Cavalier.
On Wednesday, Bynum followed up his best game of the young season with another solid effort, totaling 14 points (6-of-15 shooting) and seven rebounds in just 20 minutes in 98-88 win over the Nuggets.
'They were monsters in the pick-and-roll,'' Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. ''They were monsters on the glass. They were monsters around the rim. It was awesome to watch.''
Bynum's recent success comes after a discouraging start for the eighth-year big man, who admitted earlier this season he's given "serious thought" to retirement due to injuries in both knees.
According to the Akron-Beacon Journal, Bynum mulled the decision during his lengthy rehabilitation, but also in the early stages of this season:
“It was a thought, it was a serious thought. Still is,” Bynum said regarding retirement. “At the moment, it’s tough to enjoy the game because of how limited I am physically. I’m still sort of working through that.”
Pressed on whether or not he is still mulling retirement, Bynum said, “Yeah, every now and again.”
In 14 games this season, Bynum is averaging 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in just 17.9 minutes. He's started the team's last nine games, but has failed to establish himself as a consistent source of production, let alone the monster in the paint he once was in Los Angeles. It's easy to forget, but before getting hurt, Bynum averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds for the 2011-12 Lakers.
This season has been a stark contrast for the former All-Star as he deals with two recovering knees and a game covered in rust. But Cleveland should be encouraged by the sight of Bynum playing above the rim -- particularly his five blocks against the Bulls -- a sign that the center is finally starting to regain some of the athletic ability in his 7-foot, 285-pound frame.
Much like their starting center, the Cavaliers have struggled out of the gate as well this season. But they've now won back-to-back games for the first time this season, largely thanks to Bynum, raising their record to 6-12, which gives them legitimate hope (believe it or not) in the depleted East.
In all seriousness, if the Cavs can receive steady production from Bynum it will be a huge boon for their playoff hopes and validate the two-year, $24 million they gave him this offseason. With Bynum at center, the Cavaliers become a much more respectable team in the paint on both ends, particularly if Anderson Varejao also keeps up his recent strong play. Best of all, we're talking about Andrew Bynum for something other than his hair.