Lakers: From Frank O’Neill to Bynum
When the Lakers moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles for the 1960 season Frank O’Neill was hired as their trainer.
O’Neill held the job until 1974. Many years later he returned to the team, briefly filling in for Gary Vitti and he also worked with the Clippers.
O’Neill, who died last week at 81, is an example of a professional, dedicated to his work. Trainers aren’t paid anywhere close to what NBA players make, but for most of them it’s a valued profession.
I bring this up to offer a contrast to what’s going on with the Lakers now. Andrew Bynum, a 23-year-old center making $13 million this season, isn’t ready for training camp because he delayed surgery at the end of last season to attend the World Cup.
That decision was bad enough. But what bothers me is that Bynum doesn’t see anything wrong with what he did. And he doesn’t seem concerned that he’s being regarded as irresponsible.
Bynum has vast potential and the Lakers gave him a $55 million multi-year contract based on that potential. But he has yet to demonstrate that he’ll be able to get through a full season in the NBA.
In two years Bynum’s contract will expire. And if he becomes a free agent, teams will hesitate to give him another major deal if he hasn’t shown a greater dedication to his work.
As for the Lakers, they’re about to try for a third consecutive NBA championship. Coach Phil Jackson prefers to say kind things about Bynum.
Jackson says it’s only important that Bynum is ready for heavy duty work in April when the playoffs begin. But Jackson knows better than that. If Bynum doesn’t contribute during the regular season it puts a strain on other players and increases the chances of the Lakers not earning a high playoff seed and vital home court advantage.
Pau Gasol is likely to open the season as the Lakers’ center and Lamar Odom will start at forward.
Gasol could be worn down if he has to play center regularly and the Lakers’ depth suffers if Odom doesn’t play with the second unit.
People I respect who are close to the Lakers offer the same thoughts that are in my head. They wish Bynum would grow up.
Bynum was tutored by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and if he couldn’t learn from the NBA’s all-time leading scorer how to become a professional there doesn’t seem to be much hope for him.