It came as a bit of a surprise on Monday evening when Andrew Bynum was announced as part of the starting lineup against the Chicago Bulls. However, head coach Mike Brown hinted that he had been considering experimenting with his starters even more as he continues to search for some consistency from the 3-5 Cavaliers. If you told me on the day that Cleveland signed Bynum to his 2-year contract that he would be healthy and pretty productive in the second week of November, I'd have said you were crazy.
Furthermore, if you told me that Andrew Bynum was healthy and playing, then I'd have told you that he needs to be in the starting lineup. And that's where we are at this point. Bynum has played in 6 games, coming off the bench for his first five. He's averaging just 15 minutes per game, but logged a season-high 21 minutes on Monday against the Bulls. His health is coming along better than anybody could have hoped and he's slowly but surely shaking off the rust that comes from sitting out for an entire season.
The first game with Bynum in the starting lineup was a little bit rough. There were some miscommunications and Brown seemed frustrated at Bynum's lack of touches in the paint. But the potential benefits of having Bynum out there with the Cavaliers' other best players is obvious. At Tuesday's practice, Mike Brown indicated that, when he's healthy, Andrew Bynum will remain the starting center for Cleveland.
#Cavs Head Coach Mike Brown just stated after today's practice that when Andrew Bynum is healthy and can play, "he's our starting center".— John Michael (@CavsJMike) November 12, 2013
For me, I see this as a no-brainer. Despite the fact that he's played just 90 minutes this season, the impact that Bynum has on a game is apparent. He forces double-teams, gets other teams' bigs into foul trouble, and has the ability to find open shooters. In order to maximize the effect that he can have on the game, it's smart to put him out there with the Cavs' best lineup.
Of course, that will take some time. Brown said after Monday's loss that the team is still adjusting to playing with Bynum and inserting him into the starting lineup requires yet another adjustment.
"We just don't know how to play with a guy like that yet. Every time he touched the ball on the block, something good happened. When they double teamed, he kicked the ball out for a 3. I'd love to establish him down low, and it's what we wanted to do tonight."
Andrew Bynum agreed that his teammates aren't particularly familiar with how to play with him:
"The guys don't know how to play off me yet. There are a lot of changes for players around me when I start. They are not all familiar with it and I have to learn the plays. I have no problem passing the ball so when I draw a double team I will pass it. I felt good today but will take it slowly."
The Cavaliers have been pretty miserable on offense this year (29th in the league), but the hope is that once the team gets used to playing with Bynum, things will improve. Right now, it looks like the Cavs need about a week's worth of practices focused solely on offense. Unfortunately, that's not possible. But based on the quotes from Mike Brown, he really wants to focus the offense around Bynum when he's on the floor. And that's going to take some time. It may be easier to just have Bynum play a smaller, reserve role for this team and keep Anderson Varejao in the starting lineup. However, the potential reward of having Bynum out there to take attention away from Kyrie Irving and provide open looks for Dion Waiters is too good to pass up. It's worth the current headaches, miscommunications, and, yes, even the losses if it pays off in the end.
All of that still stands, but it's going to have to wait until Saturday. Andrew Bynum was excused from the Cavs' facilities on Tuesday to tend to a family matter and will not be with the team again until their game against the Washington Wizards on Saturday.
Andrew Bynum has been excused from the team to address a family matter and is expected to rejoin the team in DC for Sat's game— Fred McLeod (@CavsFredMcLeod) November 12, 2013
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