Andrew Bynum is headed to the Pacers.
Indiana announced Saturday the signing of the free-agent center for the remainder of the season. USA Today Sports reports that the deal will pay Bynum $1 million.
“It really wasn’t a hard decision. I think it’s the right fit for me and, in all honesty, I think we’ve got the best chance of winning,” Bynum said in a statement. “It will be great to back up Roy [Hibbert] and I’ll do whatever I can to help this team.”
Bynum has not played since Dec. 26, when he was suspended by the Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team. Cleveland then traded the 7-footer to Chicago before 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 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.
“We are obviously happy to have him join our team,” Pacers president Larry Bird said in a statement. “He gives us added size, he is a skilled big man and he has championship experience. With the minutes he gets, he should be a valuable addition.”
It's not yet clearly exactly how many minutes Bynum can expected to receive. The Pacers lead the East at 35-10 and have All-Star Hibbert starting in the middle, with a capable backup in Ian Mahinmi. 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 limited playing time in a reserve role and injury protection under a worst-case scenario, isn't totally clear. The signing does prevent Bynum from joining the Heat, who added oft-injured center Greg Oden over the summer to shore up their weak interior. Miami had been linked to interest in Bynum in various rumors over the last month.
The Pacers expect Bynum to join the team "sometime next week."
As The Point Forward noted earlier, 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. 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 technically marks Bynum's fifth team since April 2012, but he never suited up for Philadelphia or Chicago.