Want more proof that any trade involving Dwight Howard coming to the Lake Show is deader than Michael Richards’ career? Look no further than the reports of Mitch Kupchak reaching out to Andrew Bynum’s agent to get the ball rolling on a contract extension.
Now mind you GM Mitch is already cautioning that no deal is imminent. None the less this is a strong indication of the Lakers pushing away from the Howard buffet.
Bynum’s current contract calls for a nice $16-million payday for the 2012-13 season. Beyond that Bynum is pretty much stuck with the Lakers if he’s looking to maximize his worth. Only L.A. can pay him beyond the threshold for a max free agency contract. Of course only the Lakers can offer Bynum to the Magic for Howard at this point in time too.
Thus far neither Howard nor Bynum have indicated that they’d be willing to sign extensions with whatever team they’ve most recently been rumored to be headed to via trade. That is a big reason why the Howard debacle is threatening to carry over into next season.
For the Lakers they’ve got to start thinking long-term.
While building around Bynum is still a risky proposition, there is no arguing his standing among the current crop of centers that populate the NBA landscape. In fact, Shaquille O’Neal has proclaimed Bynum to be a better true center than Howard.
Tell that to Kupchak though. He’s seen Baby Bynum come out and play from time to time. When Drew is determined and focused he’s one of the most dominant forces in the game. When he’s immature and aloof there is no bigger waste of space this side of Hasheem Thabeet.
Such is the conundrum of rewarding Bynum for all his hard work and continued improvement. At some point the Lakers will be Kobe-less. That point in time is rapidly approaching and the Lakers need to start planning now. Bynum might not be the rock of the franchise but the Lakers will be in a better place to build a future champion without Bryant so long as #17 is still in the middle.