NEW ORLEANS -- When Andrew Bynum became the youngest player ever drafted, the Lakers were cautious about the time frame for his development.
“Certainly at 17 years old going on 18 years old, he has a long way to go,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in June 2005. “We don’t know what he’s going to be like in two or three years, but if he works and he’s competitive, he has a chance to be a very, very good center and there just aren’t that many centers.”
Now that Bynum has taken another massive developmental step in his third NBA season, Coach Phil Jackson was asked Wednesday if there was anything that could have made it happen sooner.
He paused for seven seconds before answering.
In what way?
“It’s the idea of ‘OK, yeah, I’ve got to dedicate myself to this process and that’s a start.’ Now you find someone that’s going to be your workout guy.
“You start it by saying, ‘I’m an alcoholic, I need to go to AA.’ It’s the same process: ‘I need to get in the best possible shape I can. I need to have a vested interest in that.’ As soon as you do that, you turn the corner.”
What motivated Bynum?
“My guess is his contract,” Jackson said. “Dollars are green. The idea, that ‘Hey, it’s coming up, I’ve got to get some traction here. This process is real short.’ ”
As part of the collective bargaining agreement established in 2005, rookie contracts were shortened from a maximum of five years to only four years. Bynum is in the third year of his rookie contract, although the Lakers and Bynum could eventually negotiate up to a five-year extension that would keep him with the Lakers through 2013-14.
Until then, they’re happy with what they’ve got, regardless of time frame.
“When Andrew came to the Lakers, he sat down and made a commitment to us -- even though he was 17 years old and inexperienced, he was going to work as hard as he could at this process,” Jackson said.
Although Jackson did allow that he nudged Bynum often last summer . . .
“Many times,” he said, smiling.
Jackson was not thrilled by the advertising for a local casino plastered across the wall in the visitors’ locker room at New Orleans Arena.
“I’m surprised that the NBA is allowing these,” he said. “It’s just not appropriate.”
There is also casino advertising inside the visitors’ locker room at the United Center in Chicago, Jackson’s former home with the Bulls.