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May 12, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) and center Andrew Bynum (17) hug at the end of game seven of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets at the Staples Center. Lakers won 96-87. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Does Andrew Bynum Have A Future With The Los Angeles Lakers?

This would seem like an easy answer, no?

Lakers center Andrew Bynum just finished off what was the most successful season of his 7 year career. He averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 35.3 minutes of action during the regular season. He also was voted into the starting line-up of his very first all-star game. His numbers may have dipped in the postseason (16.4 points, 9.4 rebounds), but this year should still be considered a resounding success for the 7’1 Bynum.

Andrew is unquestionably one of the 2 best centers (Dwight Howard the other) in the NBA. He has evolved into one of the most dominating low-post bigs in the entire league.

It’s just a crying shame that his attitude towards the game of basketball hasn’t improved as much as his on-court play.

Throughout these playoffs, questions over whether or not Andrew Bynum has the heart and/or the desire to be an elite level superstar in the NBA have arisen. He certainly has the skills and god-given ability to be a star. It’s just if he has the drive within himself to push himself to greater heights which is the problem.

For every 25 and 15 game he has, he will throw up a 10 point and 4 rebound effort like he had in game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now playing with a man like Kobe Bryant who takes 20-30 shots a game will certainly stunt his ability to score, but Bynum has rarely shown assertiveness to take over games and the motivation to carry the Lakers offense on his shoulders.

After the teams series-ending loss to OKC, Andrew Bynum was asked about whether he sees a long-term future with the Lakers organization.

When asked whether he would like to sign a long-term contract extension with the Lakers, Bynum said that “it didn’t matter to him” and that “he would play anywhere“. Thats not the kind of answer Lakers fans wanted to hear.

He did save himself later on by stating that he would definitely love to remain with Los Angeles, but the damage had been done at that point. His reputation in L.A was already hurting to begin with and all those comments did was throw salt on the wounds.

The Lakers have a team option to pick up Andrew Bynum for the 2012-13 season worth $16.47 million dollars. They would be absolutely out of their minds to not make that move. All-Star centers are hard to come by these days. Picking up the option on Bynum and then signing him to an extension to keep him in L.A for the next 4-5 years should be a huge priority.

Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol won’t be around forever. Despite his mental lapses here and there, Bynum is still young and in the prime of his career. He can only get better. His attitude towards the game stinks, but that can be easily improved with some soul-searching and more hands-on coaching.

Don’t get me wrong. Bynum is a tremendous basketball player and a key ingredient to the Lakers success over the past 5 years, but he hasn’t reached that point where he can be called upon to be “the man”. His lackadaisical attitude towards the sport will continue to hold him back from being a franchise player. His ceiling will continue to be “an above-average big man who needs someone else to push his buttons and get the most out of him” until he starts proving to basketball fans that he does in fact have that desire and passion to be a champion and a world-class basketball player.

He has the body and the skills, but he doesn’t have those important intangibles just yet.

Is that enough for the Lakers to keep him around for the foreseeable future?

It should be. As long as Kobe Bryant is wearing the yellow and purple, Andrew Bynum will continue to have a voice in his ear pushing him and keeping his head on straight, even though he clearly had times during the season and playoffs where that wasn’t the case.

So the question now is not would the Lakers want to keep Andrew Bynum (yes?), but does Andrew Bynum want to remain a Los Angeles Laker?

Better yet, does Andrew Bynum want to be considered…..elite? Currently, Bynum is great. If he gets his act together emotionally and shows fans that he wants to win and shows that he can play hard every single night….then will see.


Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports

Tags: Andrew Bynum Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers NBA NBA Playoffs 2012

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