The goal remained clear-cut in Andrew Bynum's eyes.
Playing in the NBA All-Star game would validate his arrival as an elite center. Yet, that distinction eluded Bynum through six NBA seasons because he couldn't stay healthy.
Bynum's moment finally arrived Sunday when he appeared in his first All-Star game, a 152-149 West victory over the East. But a familiar story ensued. Bynum's zero points on zero-of-three shooting, three rebounds and a block on Dwight Howard revealed little. Bynum's playing only six minutes revealed everything. He sat out after the 6:29 mark in the first quarter because of his sore right knee after having a routine injection on Saturday.
Bynum's mood during the remainder of the game hardly suggested he was worried about it. He told reporters that he had planned to appear only in the first rotation to minimize any risks. He said he planned to play Wednesday against Minnesota. As of right now, Laker fans shouldn't worry about Bynum's health.
But it's understandable if they do because they've seen how flimsy Bynum's knee has been in previous seasons. This season, Bynum's average points per game (16.3), rebounds (12.8) and minutes (34.6) all stand at career highs. Through 33 games, after an off-season of boxing and agility training, and with a knee brace, Bynum's increased post presence and improved awareness on double teams show he's for real.
Yet, Bynum's knee soreness in the Lakers' 100-85 loss Thursday to Oklahoma City reminded that his growth is fragile. Bynum has 33 more games to show efforts he can hold up and continue to improve. Meanwhile, Laker fans will anxiously wait, hoping misfortune doesn't strike again.
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