Andrew Bynum

NBA Tuesday: Bynum’s knees shatter easily

You know what isn’t “G?” Andrew Bynum’s knees.

You’ve seen those Gatorade commercials, right? Everybody from Derek Jeter to Peyton Manning to Candlestick Park’s head janitor scrolls past in black-and-white, describing “G,” which apparently stands for the soul of a past-its-prime sports drink which is only good for you in powder form anyway.

When I lived in Livermore with my sister a couple years ago, my go-to corner store was Raja’s. Only two blocks away, a great beer selection (including Anchor Steam Summer Beer for me and Lost Coast’s Great White for the sis), lots of ice cream and candy choices and best of all, Raja knew everyone’s first name after one transaction.

Raja was an Indian guy with an accent almost as thick as Apu’s from The Simpsons, and every time I’d go in there we’d have conversations about the Lakers that would consistently last somewhere between five and fifteen minutes a pop. Most of the time I almost had to talk Raja off the metaphorical ledge when the subject invariably turned to a young Andrew Bynum, who at the time was showing as much energy as Don Nelson at the end of a road trip. I don’t know how many times I heard quotes like these from Raja:

“Man, he gotta move. He just don’t move!”

“We got to trade Bynum. He’s so slow. Move!”

“Bynum. Move!”

And so on and so forth.

I’ve always believed in the guy L.A. kids call Drew,  and I still do. But these knee injuries, well, they’re making me wonder about Bynum’s milk intake back when he was shorter than most standard door frames. A year and two weeks after Bynum suffered a freakish bone-bruise/knee-dislocation injury against the Grizz –  a left knee injury that was somehow caused by landing on Lamar Odom’s foot — Kobe awkwardly falls into the front of Kareem 2.0’s right knee, tearing Bynum’s MCL in the process.

With surgery and physical therapy these days, knee injuries and their recovery times are kind of mysterious. Sometimes guys play with torn ligaments, sometimes it takes six months to recover from knee surgery, sometimes guys are Tracy McGrady.

All I know is, Bynum was injured on Jan. 13 last year and was given the always mysterious street-clothes-sentence of “six-to-eight weeks.” Any injury where the phrase “eight weeks” is uttered means, “We have absolutely no idea when this dude’s coming back.”

While the Lakers hoped Bynum would be back by the end of March last year, he didn’t come back at all last season, and the Lakers ended up being just good enough to get pushed around by the Celtics for six games in the Finals. Now the Lakers have to prepare for another postseason without the man who two years in a row has suffered traumatic knee injuries at the exact point when he was becoming the best center in the Western Conference. Nerf-dunking Bynum was back, but his knees were again unable to avoid the wrath of his teammates.

Los Angeles will still make the Finals without Bynum, and were set on proving that last night in Madison Square Garden with Kobe and Pau combining for 92 points (Kobe scoring 61) in an easy and cathartic win over the Knicks.

This Lakers team is better than last year’s. Trevor Ariza is two or three degrees of confidence and a summer of weightlifting away from becoming as good as Ron Artest (only more athletic and less insane); Kobe won’t win the MVP but has come as close to perfection as he ever will over the past month and a half; Pau Gasol has the most diverse offensive game of any power forward in the league (although after Bynum’s latest injury he’s a center again); Lamar Odom’s playing for his last big contract.

Whatever the Lakers end up achieving this year, one has to wonder whether Bynum will ever be able to take advantage of Bryant while Kobe’s still at his apex. When you combine Bynum’s dominant stretch last year with his highlight stretch from this season (the last five games, to be specific), we’re talking about only 20 games or so, and Kobe won’t be the best player in the world much longer.

Is Bynum just the recipient of some bad early luck that’ll be forgotten within three years? Or instead of “G,” are his knees made out of POWERade Arctic Shatter?

Despite a name that sounds dangerous to one’s esophagus, Arctic Shatter was a truly delicious sports drink, perhaps because it was white and cloudy like Nigori sake but much better at hydration. It was sort of like Gatorade Frost, but without the overwhelming tartness all Gatorade gimmick-flavors are packed with. But like Bynum’s knees, Arctic Shatter unfortunately had no staying power. I haven’t seen the Shatter in a gas station or liquor store since back when Barry Bonds was patrolling left field, meaning in times of thirst I’m left to either drink the “G” or settle for bottled water.

(Side note: Have you seen Arctic Shatter POWERade anywhere lately? No, honestly, I’d pay to find out where some exists. It’s like when I was twelve and my Dad loved this cereal called “Strawberry Squares,” which were little wheat squares with jam in the middle. Unfortunately Strawberry Squares got canceled like an ABC sitcom, but Dad found it on our trip to Hawaii the summer before I entered junior high. He bought twelve boxes and packed it in all of our suitcases, so I had two boxes of squares in my bag along with all my new “Gecko Hawaii” and “T&C Surf Co.” t-shirts.)

Raja’s would carry Arctic Shatter for a few months, then it would be gone like Crystal Pepsi, or Bynum whenever he starts reaching his potential. Here’s hoping Drew can come back soon from this MCL tear. In the meantime his knees will be known as “Arctic Shatter.”

That’s even worse than lacking “G.”

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