Former free agent Andrew Bynum spoke with the Indianapolis media for the first time since being acquired by the Pacers last Saturday. Upon signing with Indiana, the oft-injured center released the following statement about his future team:
"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."
Echoing this statement and amidst concerns that the Pacers' acquisition would disrupt the team's highly vaunted team chemistry, Bynum's one-time coach, Darvin Ham, told the Indy Star earlier this week that the former All-Star is "not a disruptive guy" and "just wants to be left alone and left alone to play the game, plain and simple."
Ham's insights regarding Bynum's overall disposition might explain away some of his, what could be perceived as, reluctance to elaborate about the past and present with the media today.
For instance, when asked if the highly publicized rumors about him being lackadaisical or losing his passion for the game were accurate, the Indy Star's Candace Buckner reports that Bynum responded by stating, "Again, it doesn't matter to me. There will always be questions, it's part of the business that we're in. All you can do is just go play." He also alluded to the Cavs' toxic environment as a possible rationale for why his career did not pan out in Cleveland.
The former Cavalier also seemed hesitant to divulge exactly what his day-to-day activities have consisted of over the past six weeks, as evidenced by this tweet published by Scott Agness:
Bynum joined the Pacers for shootaround. When I asked him if he's kept a workout regimen since last playing 6wks ago, he said, "Not really."— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) February 7, 2014
Hearing that the Pacers' new employee has not invested much into his conditioning probably does not ease concerns regarding his commitment level and alleged potential to disrupt the Pacers' camaraderie; however, if you examine Ham's comments more closely it does not seem entirely out of character.
Like the former coach told the Indy Star, Bynum likes to be "left alone to play." In other words, some players are media darlings and others would rather be people of few words, Bynum, of course, appears to belong to the latter category. On a positive note, after he finished being questioned about his past team, he did offer up a few statements that should leave his teammates and coaches optimistic about his willingness to do exactly as he promised, which is just simply to fit-in. According to the Indy Star, Bynum, not unlike his new teammates, has his eye on the league's ultimate prize:
"My primary motivator right now is the opportunity to win and do it again because that's the most fun," Bynum said. "I think the (Pacers) system is good. I played through the bigs and it was just a great fit, great opportunity to win."
Andrew Bynum was also willing to briefly contrast the Pacers' stellar culture and identity with that of his old playing environment. As most may already know, sources (possibly including current players) close to the New York Daily News described the current state of the Cavaliers as a "total mess." Yesterday, all of the reports and rumors regarding alleged discord between players and coaches, along with the team's seeming inability to win, ultimately culminated in the termination of the franchise's general manager, Chris Grant. Bynum compared that disaster to the Pacers' typical harmoniousness by telling Pacers.com, "It's a lot easier to fit in here and be positive because the entire atmosphere is already that way."
Perhaps that response explains why, even in the midst of some of Bynum's outwardly aloof responses, Frank Vogel remains steadfast in his belief that the constantly rumored malcontent center can experience a rebirth as a Pacer, telling the Indy Star:
"He wants to work and we believe that. We believe that he was in a bad situation the last place he was at and believe it will work here."
As a gesture of goodwill, Bynum's new teammate, Roy Hibbert, also seemed to be warming to the idea that he will have a former All-Star backing him up for the remainder of the season:
Happy 2 have Bynum on the team. Hope they don't put his locker next to mine. Gonna be knocking knees sitting next to each other. #7FootProbs— Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer) February 6, 2014
Despite all of today's reports regarding Bynum's past employer, conditioning level, desire to compete, and commitment to the team, from Hibbert and Vogel's aforementioned statements alone, it seems that the Pacers' new acquisition is indeed coming into just the welcoming environment his career desperately needs. What he does with the ample opportunity is entirely up to him.