Ex-Laker James Worthy chooses Andrew Bynum over Dwight Howard

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The uncertainty continues, so you know we’re talking about Dwight Howard.

He’s still the Orlando Magic’s center, but that title could be in name only. Howard wants to relocate, but his top choice, the Brooklyn Nets, appears unrealistic after they made moves (adding Joe Johnson, re-signing Deron Williams and Brook Lopez) that took up plenty of cap space. The Houston Rockets are clearing the deck to make room for Howard. And who knows? Maybe the New York Yankees will become involved somehow.

The Times’ Mike Bresnahan, among others, has reported the Lakers are part of this pursuit too, showing some openness toward acquiring Jason Richardson’s contract if it results in Superman coming to L.A. But one prominent former Laker, “Big Game” James Worthy, argues that the Purple and Gold shouldn’t waste their time.

“I like Andrew Bynum,” Worthy said recently at an appearance at Bell Gardens Intermediate School, sponsored by After School All-Stars Los Angeles and Metro PCS. “He’s young and just as good as Dwight right now. He’s getting better. Dwight ... to me, he’s too much gab and too much talking. I’m old school. I want to see something done on the floor. He does all this media stuff, flip-flopping. You don’t get respect from veteran players when you do that kind of stuff. They just want you to play. They want to see what you can do out there.”


Howard is 26; Bynum is 24. Howard boasted superior numbers over Bynum last season in points (20.6 to 18.7) and rebounds (14.5 to 11.8). But those numbers spark further debate. Would Howard score less with Bynum’s supporting cast on the Lakers? Would Bynum score more with Howard’s dominant role in Orlando?

There are other unanswered questions.

Would Howard’s surgically repaired back prove problematic, or would he return to his usually reliable health? Would Bynum’s wobbly knees suffer yet another setback, or is avoiding a major injury last season a sign of things to come? Would Howard sign an extension with the Lakers when he’s indicated he doesn’t want to play in L.A.? Would Bynum’s unpredictable effort and immature behavior continue?

Worthy has been highly critical of Bynum’s antics, including taking an ill-advised three-pointer, staying out of the huddle during Mike Brown’s timeouts, drawing two ejections, playing loud music in the locker room and giving inconsistent effort. Still, Worthy believes Bynum is a “guy you have to coach to,” suggesting Brown may have to change how to motivate him.

“His game has caught up to where it needs to be, but his maturation has not. He says things that I would never allow as a coach,” Worthy said. “But he’s young, so that can change. You don’t give up on a young kid, though. He has some attitude adjustments to make. But I’d wait on those.”

Part of Worthy’s apathy toward Howard is because of the Lakers’ acquisition of Steve Nash, which Worthy believes gives the Lakers a chance to win the NBA title.

But he’s skeptical that will happen if the Lakers don’t upgrade their bench. The unit finished last in the league in points (30.5), 20th in shooting percentage (41.6%) and 28th in efficiency (27.2). And there is lots of uncertainty on how the Lakers will address it.

Devin Ebanks has agreed to a one-year deal with the Lakers. They recently re-signed Darius Morris to a one-year deal. But they haven’t reached an agreement with power forward Jordan Hill. The Lakers aren’t expected to re-sign veteran forwards Matt Barnes and Troy Murphy. And they have a team option on Andrew Goudelock.

Meanwhile, Bresnahan reported the Lakers have interest in free agent power forward Antawn Jamison, while Nash has publicly expressed interest in persuading former Suns teammate Grant Hill to join.

Regardless of what happens, Worthy had a clear idea on what he wants from the reserves.

“They need defense and they need to at least average 25 points a night,” Worthy said. “That’s the trend now. If you look at Oklahoma or other teams, such as Miami, that’s what they need to look for.”

Still, the Lakers’ title fortunes, in Worthy’s eyes, hinge on the Lakers keeping Bynum.

“He’s still young enough to be traded, but I don’t give up on a seven-footer who has improved on his footwork,” Worthy said. “People want Dwight Howard. They can say that. But I believe in Andrew Bynum.”


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