Andrew Bynum’s parting with the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday afternoon was one of the most peculiar mid-playoff developments in recent memory. At the time, cutting the cord with Bynum apparently held no tangible benefits. He was simply a 7-footer with no intrinsic value and a reputation for being a serial team chemistry killer. The snide comments about Bynum flooded in, but surely they couldn’t actually be true. Besides appearing beside Hibbert on the bench while he struggled against Atlanta and a few halftime haircuts, he’d been a mute in Indy.
It might seem silly, but the numbers back up Bynum’s radioactive reputation. In three stops this season, Bynum’s aura has manifested itself in the form of negative vibes.
Bynum’s exodus from Cleveland didn’t solve the Cavs woes completely, but at least, their team chemistry more closely resembled a tank with a rotting goldfish floating at the surface as opposed to the live locker room volcano that existed through the season’s first two months. Cody Zeller’s presence also spaced the floor offensively and Cleveland nearly cracked the Eastern Conference’s playoff race before Kyrie Irving’s body returned to the glass shop for repairs.
The Chicago Bulls were 14-18 at the time they traded for and quickly waived Bynum, then proceeded to rattle off 34 wins and 16 losses post-Luol Deng.
True Detective’s second season hasn’t been cast yet, but the possibility of another pair of detectives spawned a #TrueDetectiveSeason2 Twitter hashtag which pairs bizarre tandems with one another to replicate the imbalanced team of Louisiana detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart . The Chernobyl Pacers would suffice as a follow-up mystery to season 1's masterpiece.
Paul George and Roy Hibbert have been Indiana’s phenomenal title-starving protagonists for the past season and a half, but in the second half of the 2013-14 campaign, Indiana has been unraveling from within for mysterious reasons. Tabloid rumors spread of George having a fling with Hibbert’s girl, but sounded too much like a Shonda Rhimes original series to be taken seriously. There was also a rumor about Bynum demoralizing Hibbert in practice by absolutely demolishing him before his knees began flaring up again in late March.
The timing of Bynum’s premature split with Indiana should have been a footnote in a manila folder of clues concerning the prolific case of the Pacers dwindling offensive rebounding advantage and a second-half record that was barely floating above the .500 mark if it hadn't been juxtaposed between Hibbert's performances in Games 1 and 2.
Hibbert’s double bagel in Game 1 against Washington magnified the impact of his super shrinking contributions. Against Atlanta, there was always the excuse that their spread offense and versatile lineup kept him from clamping down on drives into the lane. Hibbert prides himself on his defense, but he’s also an emotional elevator whose game ebbs and flows at the frequency of his confidence. After he responded to the urgency of the moment during Indiana’s Game 7 win over Atlanta, his struggles were written off as a byproduct of observers questioning whether the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year had the effectiveness of a mannequin against Atlanta.
Bynum rarely touched the court for Indiana, but he was the league’s hatchet-wielding hitchhiker when he signed with the Pacers on February 1. Instead of coming off the bench to play hero, Bynum became the villain in Roy Hibbert’s personal story, hacking away at his fragile pysche.
Throughout season one of HBO's True Detective, the Yellow King was a mythical figure believed to be an ominous supernatural embodiment of death.
SPOILER ALERT: The season finale ultimately revealed the Yellow King to be nothing more than a sadistic serial killer committing occult murders that Rust Cohle became a prime suspect in over a decade after he and his partner's original invesigation.
For a brief period, Hibbert was the main suspect in the Pacers precipitious decline. Bynum’s abrupt exit forced us to consider whether Hibbert was the bumbling red herring archetype taking the wrap for Bynum’s Keyser Soze gimpy leg act.
At least that was the latent narrative beneath Game 2’s veneer when NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner filed this report which corroborates suspicions which had spread throughout the tinfoil hat-wearing community.
Acquiring Bynum – at a reported $1 million guaranteed for the balance of 2013-14 – was a gamble by Bird that didn’t pay off. But it might have cost the Pacers more than money. Center Roy Hibbert‘s ongoing tailspin coincides with Bynum’s arrival, so much that some team insiders have wondered if the move rattled Hibbert’s confidence and trust.
Through Jan. 31, Hibbert was posting his customary numbers – 12.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks per game – for a team that was 35-10. After Bynum was signed, Hibbert averaged 9.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. He’s been worse in Indiana’s eight playoff games so far: 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks. And the Pacers have gone 25-20.
Bringing Bynum aboard rankled Hibbert, a source told NBA.com, when coach Frank Vogel ran plays to get Bynum involved offensively that he rarely calls for Hibbert.
Aschburner’s report certainly explains Hibbert’s increasingly negative demeanor, cryptic comments to the media and his paranoid reaction to the league office’s clarification memo about the verticality rule not being applicable when defenders twist their bodies sideways.
There were sneaking suspicions hours before Game 1 that Bynum’s presence was putting a cramp on Hibbert’s style and that somehow Bynum’s departure was related to curtailing Hibbert from sinking further towards a new nadir after the double bagel game by tipping defensive rebounds into the opponent’s basket.
Pacers cut Andrew Bynum 2 days after Roy Hibbert's 0/0 game. I think they figured out who the "Yellow King" was. #TrueDetectiveSeason2
— DJ Meta Dunson (@CerebralSportex) May 7, 2014
As expected, the first post-Bynum game since the Pacers swoon began resulted in his finest performance of the season while his girlfriend and Georgetown coach John Thomspon watched. The angst melted away as he poured in 28 points and grabbed 9 boards by getting deep positioning in the post, funneling soft baby hooks through the cylinder, crashing the boards and colliding with the floor diving for loose balls.
I doubt Bynum does these things on purpose, but in previous stops he was known for rebelling in practices and games. Some people never change, they just getter better at doing what’s ingrained in their DNA. Bynum just emits negative energy.
The trick is channeling Hibbert’s renewed focus into a nightly occurrence, but if he continues on this trajectory, the Pacers championship tour should get back on track. Bynum will walk and still collect a ring if the Pacers win a title, but don’t roll your eyes about him being at the root of the Pacers decay.
Already provided the anecdotal evidence. Here's visual proof that Andrew Bynum was the "Yellow King" pic.twitter.com/iioT5DzQAK
— DJ Meta Dunson (@CerebralSportex) May 9, 2014