Will Andrew Bynum soon be signing with the Pacers?
The Indianapolis Star reported Friday that the unrestricted free agent center is in Indianapolis with his agent, although no agreement had yet been reached.
Bynum has not played since Dec. 26, when he was suspended by the Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team. Cleveland then traded the seven-footer to Chicago prior to his contract guarantee date in January, allowing the Bulls to release him without paying the final $6.3 million remaining on his $12.3 million salary for the 2013-14 season. Since his release, Bynum has been an unrestricted free agent, and the Pacers, Heat, Clippers and other clubs were linked to interest in his services.
The Pacers currently have one open roster spot to facilitate the addition of Bynum. Indiana, which is currently a little less than $2 million under the luxury tax line, can sign Bynum to a veteran's minimum contract, or they can use a portion of the $2.2 million remaining on their mid-level exception.
Although the "how" of signing Bynum is fairly straightforward, the "why" is less clear. The Pacers hold the East's best record at 35-10 and have All-Star Roy Hibbert starting in the middle, with a capable back-up in Ian Mahinmi already on the roster. All-Star Paul George and David West play the bulk of the minutes at the forward positions, and the remaining frontcourt bench minutes are being handled nicely by the likes of Luis Scola, Danny Granger and Chris Copeland. What Bynum brings to the table under these conditions, besides injury protection under a worst-case scenario, isn't totally clear.
Bynum, 26, averaged 8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 20 minutes per game over 24 appearances for the Cavaliers this season. His situation in Cleveland clearly did not develop as team or player had hoped. The vision in adding Bynum, it seemed, was that he would be the piece to put the franchise over the top and back into the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Instead of recovering the full complement of his All-Star skills, though, Bynum struggled to keep up with the pace of the game and offered inconsistent production. His net rating of minus-11.8 is the lowest mark among Cavaliers who have played at least 400 minutes this season, and Cleveland was 10-19 at the time of his suspension.
The 2012 All-Star starter averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the Lakers in 2011-12, but he seemed to be having issues coping with the injuries and the mental transition to becoming a lesser player. Back in November, Bynum told reporters that he had given “serious thought” to retirement because of his ongoing knee issues, which he called “career-threatening” and which already cost him his entire 2012-13 season with the Sixers. Signing with the Pacers would technically mark Bynum's fifth team since April 2012, but he never suited up for Philadelphia or Chicago.