A little more than a month after signing with Indiana, Andrew Bynum will make his Pacers debut tonight against the Celtics.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel told reporters at Tuesday's shootaround that Bynum would not only play against Boston, but would take Ian Mahinmi's place in the Pacers rotation as the backup center deals with a bruised rib.
Tuesday night's game will mark Bynum's first action this season since Dec. 26, when he was a Cleveland Cavalier.
Bynum has been working his way into shape with the Pacers for weeks, but appears to be finally ready to take the floor. Indiana had the luxury of taking its time with the talented, but oft-injured big man thanks to All-Star Roy Hibbert's presence in the starting lineup and Mahinmi, a capable backup who has struggled this season, but has only played a minimal role.
Mahinmi is averaging 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 rebounds in 16.1 minutes per game for Indiana this year, while shooting a career-low 43.5 percent from the field.
Bynum was suspended by the Cavaliers in late December for conduct detrimental to the team. Cleveland then traded the 7-footer to Chicago before his contract guarantee was triggered, allowing the Bulls to release him without paying the final $6.3 million remaining on his $12.3 million salary for the season. The Pacers then signed Bynum on Feb. 1 to a one-year deal, reportedly worth $1 million.
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.