Commentary

Apologizing to Andrew Bynum

Updated: May 5, 2012, 2:12 AM ET
By Scoop Jackson | ESPN.com

Extremely overrated, living off potential instead of productivity, young, dumb, looking for someone to pacify his masked insecurity, undisciplined, disrespectful, arrogant, aloof.

And this was my opinion before he turned coward in last year's playoffs and tried to end J.J. Barea's career by flagrantly fouling him in a way that cost him four games to begin this season.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Bynum
Harry How/Getty ImagesIn the past month, Andrew Bynum's play stands out.

To say I had no respect for Andrew Bynum would be pleasant. At times I've called him less than a man. Done the radio/TV host thing and called him out of his name. On the air. In print. Didn't matter. People would say, "But he's only 24 years old, give him time." I'd say: "Kevin Durant is only 23 years old; Kevin Love is only 23 years old; Derrick Rose is only 24 years old. I don't see them ever acting the way Bynum acts or doing the any of the selfish and immature things that Bynum does."

You can't teach height seems to always be the pushback. But what do you do with someone who is making a living off potential instead of productivity, who has the height but isn't willing to be taught?

What do you do with someone who walks around like we owed him something? Who was playing as though he was the game's gift? Ever since the proposed trade to get Jason Kidd in a Lakers uniform in exchange for Bynum didn't go down in 2007, I've never been able to understand what the big deal about Bynum was. And why the Lakers have been so obsessed with keeping him.

Prodigy? Best center in the game? I had him behind Brook Lopez.

But then it happened.

It was almost like Bynum had to get that one last act of being a fool out of his system before he could finally settle into who he really was. Or who he'd finally become.

The rebellious 3-pointer he took March 27 against the Warriors that got him benched; high-fiving fans after being ejected March 20 against the Rockets; blowing off a meeting with GM Mitch Kupchak that got him fined; and other, as the Lakers claimed, "numerous infractions" (including the infamous "getting my zen on" excuse he used for not participating in team huddles during timeouts that occurred on various occasions) seemed to be his Malcolm Gladwell moment. His tipping point.

Maybe mine, too. Bynum's play -- and it seems his attitude -- since the team disciplined and fined him has been bananas. And when he followed that ridiculous 30-rebound game against the Spurs in April with a 30-point game on the Nuggets, to serve notice to them of what the first round of the playoffs against the Lakers was going to be like, my vision of him became less obscured by past disappointments.

I was beginning to understand. The process was slow, but the impact of the results was undeniable.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Bynum
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew Bynum has begun to have the impact on games expected from someone of his stature.

Then the playoffs began …

All I can say to Andrew Bynum is that (1) I "get" you now and (2) I'm sorry.

I see where Shaq has been coming from all season long, when he claimed you were better and more valuable than Dwight Howard. I see why Kupchak and the Buss family are holding on to you like Bravo holds on to chefs and housewives.

Kupchak, given the opportunity to say "I told you so," didn't when I asked him about Bynum.

But he did say this via email: "Andrew has improved in every aspect of the game. He has become a dominant force for us both offensively and defensively, and that has been recognized league-wide. He has a special skill set, and we look forward to watching him continue to grow on and off the court."

Chuck Person, Lakers assistant coach, followed with further confirmation. Putting Bynum's entire transformation this season -- and my mea culpa -- into perspective.

"Andrew came to training camp in great shape, probably better than almost anybody if you look around the league," Person said. "He came back with a purpose in mind that he wanted to be the best center in the league, and he's done a great job working toward that."

Bynum has finally come into who he is supposed to be, the dominant center the Lakers have seen all along. I was slow to notice, blinded because I looked no further than the surface.

So Drew: If you see me, don't kick my a-- or pull me off into one of those side rooms in the Staples Center and beat me down. Just understand, it took me a while to comprehend you, to fully understand why the Lakers handled you the way they have all these years, why they put up with you, why they had such faith. Now I get it.

One of the greatest teachers I ever had in my life was my graduate school "Introduction To Statistics" professor at Howard University, Dr. Leon Jones. Dr. Jones said to begin and end every class: "Always see the big picture." That wasn't statistics he was teaching us; that was life.

With Andrew Bynum, I always disregarded that lesson. With him I never saw the big picture. Until now.

Scoop Jackson | email

ESPN.com columnist