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Bynum Makes Big Impact

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

March 11, 2014

He's listed at 285, five pounds less than Roy Hibbert. He's listed at 7-foot, two inches shorter than Hibbert.

But something's wrong here. Andrew Bynum is so big, Hibbert could pass for his younger brother. Bynum is so big, the Pacers are going to have to either invent a new nickname for him, or downsize Hibbert's.

“He's huge,” Paul George said after Bynum's encouraging debut with the Pacers Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “He's bigger than Roy. We call Roy the Big Dawg, but Bynum's probably bigger than Roy.”

No, he is bigger than Roy. Has to be, regardless of what the roster stats show.

“Humongous,” David West said. “He's enormous. I'm glad he's on our side.”

Bynum officially joined the Pacers' side in their streak-busting 94-83 victory over Boston, and wasted no time making an impression – a big impression on those fans in attendance, who had yet to see him in uniform. A quick impression, too.

Entering the game to an eager ovation with 4:22 left in the first quarter, Bynum wasted no time making his presence felt. He cleared room for David West to score on a driving left-handed shot in the lane on his first offensive possession. He scored on a dunk on his second, and then he grabbed a rebound on the other end. Two offensive plays later, he scooted a bounce pass from the left block to West on the right wing for a driving layup.

It went on like that, and by the time the period ended Bynum had contributed four points, five rebounds and an assist in his 262 seconds. He finished the game with eight points on 3-of-4 shots and 10 rebounds in 15:37. Many questions remain to be answered, but the opening act was as encouraging as it was intriguing.

The bench, which had contributed just four points in the previous game, a loss at Dallas, scored 31 points in this one. Bynum was a major part of that, because his mere presence created opportunities for fellow second-unit scoring threats Luis Scola (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting) and Evan Turner (nine points on 4-of-4 shooting).

Asked how Bynum should best contribute to the Pacers, West had a quick answer.

“His ability to command a double-team,” he said. “I don't know if it gets more simple than that. The NBA is about advantages, and if you've got a guy who can get two (defenders) to the ball before he even makes a move …”

That would be a good thing. Hibbert doesn't tend to draw double-teams but Bynum did from the undersized Celtics. He showed why when he displayed a power move across the lane in the third period that drew a helpless foul from Jared Sullinger, who at 6-9, 260 used to bully his way through the Big Ten but looked like positively pint-sized next to Bynum.

“Let's not blow it out of perspective,” Bynum said of his first-quarter flurry. “I think the tallest guy they had was 6-2. Playing with midgets, so it was going to be easy to be effective.”

That's Bynum. He keeps it cool. You'll never hear rah-rah talk from him. He's unimpressed with praise, and he's dismissive of opponents. West used a curse word to describe his nature, and meant it as a compliment. Maybe the Pacers' collection of nice guys can use that element. Again, one game isn't enough to know.

But one game is enough to know all the potential positives Bynum can bring – the power game around the basket, the rebounds in traffic that seem to find their way to him, the passing skills. This is a player remember, who once scored 42 points in a game, once grabbed 30 rebounds, once had a game with 21 points and 22 rebounds and once had a triple-double. So, getting eight points and 10 rebounds off the bench wasn't going to impress him.

But it caught the eye of his teammates.

“Man, he brought a lot.” George said. “There's not much on the court that he didn't do tonight.”

Bynum's great games were at least two seasons ago, though, and it remains to be seen how his knees hold up. The Pacers have nursed him along carefully since acquiring him on Feb. 1, and he can't predict how his right knee, which is protected by a heavy brace, will respond to game action. He wasn't supposed to play for at least a few more days, but he was forced into action slightly ahead of schedule by Ian Mahinmi's bruised left rib. He doesn't know how he'll feel during Wednesday's practice, nor whether he'll be able to play in back-to-back games in Philadelphia and Detroit on Friday and Saturday.

“Today it didn't bother me because of adrenaline and I had two months off, so it's going to feel good,” he said of his right knee. “The key is how it responds and how we can keep inflammation out. If we have inflammation, that starts the whole (troublesome) process. Right now we don't have any.”

If his knees hold up, Bynum's contributions can only grow. He doesn't have much chemistry with either the starters or reserves yet, having barely practiced with them in five-on-five settings. He said he prefers playing on the right block rather than the left, where he was posted most of Tuesday's game. His teammates, he said, have to learn he'll pass the ball back out if they give it to him. And the coaching staff will have to figure a way to cover for him when he has to guard smaller players on the perimeter, as he did against the Celtics.

Still, his skills are undeniable.

“He's one of the best bigs in this league and in the history of the game when he's healthy,” George Hill said.

If you think that's hyperbole, then settle for this assessment from Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

“What they have is 48 minutes of a dynamic low post threat,” Steven said before the game. “That's very rare. Now you have two of the best back-to-the-basket threats with size on one team.”

For the Pacers, that's big.

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