For Andrew Bynum, this was an especially meaningful postseason. There's inherent significance to any championship, much less a repeat title at the expense of the Boston Celtics. But the achievement adds even more layers upon taking into account the pain Bynum endured while gutting out the playoffs with a torn meniscus in his right knee. By the time we reached Game 7 of the Finals, he was clearly running on fumes. Still, the kid gave it his all, managed to make a difference, and impressed the teammates, coaches and front office types alike with his heart displayed.
The good news? He gets a ring. The bad news? A date under the knife still looms. Drew is heading to South Africa next week to take in some World Cup soccer. (He's rooting for the Brazilians, but to the best of my knowledge, would still take "love it" over "leave it" when it comes to the U-S-A.) As a preventative measure, today included another knee draining procedure to remove swelling and make sure nothing flares up while he's overseas. The surgery itself will take place sometime in mid-July, followed by rehab in L.A. He's expecting the operation and recovery to be relatively easy (compared to previous injuries, if nothing else) and appeared in pretty good spirits about his situation.
This has been an important year for Bynum in terms of professional growth and accountability. At the beginning of the season, he was often hyper-aware of touches and allowed his defense to be dictated too often by his offense. By the time the Larry O'Brien was raised, he was content to do whatever necessary to help the team, regardless of the stats. Maybe it was a greater appreciation of the stakes involved. Maybe his condition prevented him from going all out on both sides of the ball, and the focus was created for him. Or maybe it's just a matter of getting older. Either way, it's hard not to walk away with a respect for how Bynum went about his business when it mattered most.
Quotes and video below the jump...
On being the young guy on a veteran team: "My teammates are all older than me. We have a couple of teammates who teach us all kind of stuff about being a professional. In my situation, I've been lucky to have guys like Phil, guys like Kobe, guys like D.Fish. LO. Artest. Everybody, they're much older than I am, so I get to learn and see how they handle adversity and really try to learn from them and pull as much as I can from. In my position, I'm always gonna feel like the young guy on this team until I get up there and there's somebody younger than me."
On having no doubts about getting through the playoffs: "That's all I was thinking. Seriously. Like, 'I have to play. I'm gonna play.' It's pretty cool, because I just finished my exit meeting and they asked me, 'If you had to play one more game, could you have?' I was like, 'Yeah, I would definitely play.' I wanted to be a part of it any way that I could. To get it done and to win, it just feels really, really, really good. It's definitely a special moment. One that I won't forget."
On becoming a better offensive player: I definitely have work to do as far as dominating the offensive side of the game. I know that with my size, defensively, I help this team, especially a lot more. Offensively, I think stuff for me to work on this summer is core strength and getting a better base so I can finish over the contact. And then getting into my moves more quickly. And develop a real counter. Pau's counter with the left hook is amazing, so I want to obviously try to add that to my game. That's that's one thing I see with him. His activity level is also what I try to pick up on, as far as getting the offensive rebounds. It's hard to keep him out of the game."
On dealing with trade rumors: I don't even care about the trade rumors. I love the game, so I'll play anywhere. I know it's cliche, but that's the truth. Hopefully, I'll be here a long time.
On the importance of bringing back Derek Fisher: It's super-important. Time and time again, he came up with the right thing to say to get everybody inspired and everybody motivated. It happens all the time in the fourth quarter. I think everybody knows about that. He leads through words and by example. He's always the first guy out there. He's shooting all sorts of jump shots. Working on his handle. He's getting treatment. He's there after we leave. When we practice on the road, he stays in the arena and shoots. He's the model professional. It's great to have someone like that in the locker room."
On the importance of Phil Jackson coming back: We all want PJ to come back. Every last one of us. Hopefully he makes the right decision and decides to get another ring.