The most encouraging facets of Andrew Bynum's debut with the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night couldn't be found in a box score that showed the 7-footer logged eight points and 10 rebounds in only 15½ minutes against the Boston Celtics.
What should make the Pacers feel even more optimistic about Bynum is the fact that he didn't obliterate his team's legendary chemistry nor did he experience a recurrence of the knee soreness that has made him one of the NBA's biggest busts over much of the last two years.
Of course, it's still early.
One can never make sweeping generalizations about Bynum growing up or getting past his injury issues without fear of looking silly the next time they turn on TMZ or receive a medical update from the Pacers. But from all accounts, Bynum has been a solid teammate since coming to Indiana from a Cleveland Cavaliers team that couldn't unload him fast enough after he reportedly made a mockery of practices by shooting from far-flung spots on the court any time he touched the ball.
Bynum had not played since Dec. 26, having been suspended and later traded by the Cavaliers to the Chicago Bulls, who then released him in a cost-cutting move.
The Pacers largely acquired Bynum with an eye on the playoffs, where he could counter the Miami Heat's Greg Oden in a presumed Eastern Conference finals matchup. Even with his shaky conditioning and knee worries, Bynum has averaged 19.8 minutes in 25 games this season, more than twice the 8.3 minutes Oden has averaged in his 16 games.
That means Bynum would likely be on the court to face Miami's undersized front line for stretches in any playoff series between the teams, assuming Oden cannot significantly ratchet up his minutes. Big advantage, Pacers.
Bynum had moments against the Celtics on Tuesday when he resembled the player who was once widely regarded as the second-best center in the game behind Dwight Howard. He dunked on his first touch and made a couple of putbacks on the way to making three of four shots. He also grabbed rebounds with ease and even made an assist.
"I felt like I played all right," Bynum told Fox Sports Indiana's Brooke Olzendam. "You know it's a new system, so I got to learn it and get better position on the block and become a bigger target. I thought I could have done more damage out there, but I was rebounding and felt good. My knees felt good. I had some spring in my step."
The Pacers could be poised to take a major leap forward if Bynum can keep it up.
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