Drew, Kwame and that nutty Buss fam
I finally have a second to address the recent Hoopshype.com article written by LakersBlog favorite and longtime hoops scribe Roland Lazenby. In it, he talks about both the possibility of bringing back Kwame Brown to provide both some muscle and frontcourt depth, along with a description of the Buss family dynamic that's made Andrew Bynum as pawn and beneficiary. I'll drop a few thoughts on the latter subject first. The specifics Lazenby cites (Jim Buss encouraging Bynum to use his own doctors or pursue coaching outside of Phil Jackson) may be new items to some. But the article's general theme of a schism between Jeannie and Jim Buss (the former widely viewed as the more rational one and the latter widely viewed as an unqualified ne'er do well who happened to pick a winner in Drew) is nothing if not worn territory.
Lazenby simply revisited the topic as background for Bynum's health and contract, which is obviously topical as we speak. It's also a platform for discussing Kwame, which I'll get to in a bit.
In terms of Bynum's knee, I'm not a doctor, so I won't claim to know if he was better off following the Laker medical staff's advice or his own physicians. It's impossible to know for sure whether he'd have recovered quicker keeping things in house, so to speak. But it's definitely not unheard of for athletes to work outside a team's medical staff with injuries. If you recall, when Kobe was in Colorado back in '03, the team didn't even know he'd left Cali, much less jetted out to go under the knife. I'm not saying this to "back" Bynum. I'm just saying that, while deeper elements could certainly be lingering under the surface, the act in and of itself doesn't necessarily raise my eyebrows.
I was also a little surprised to hear Lazenby describe Drew's decision not to play in the 2007 Summer Pro League as a "bombshell." It could be a purely semantical issue (as in, "he just sort of informed them") but I specifically remember telling readers last summer that I not only wasn't surprised Bynum skipped SPL ball, but that after playing 20-ish minutes for 82 games and often going up against the likes of Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire, it would be a waste of his time and that workouts, whether in Atlanta or the team, would serve him better. I don't pretend that I saw his third season coming, but it's still hard to argue the results of Bynum's decision.
In a lot of ways, I think these examples serve more to demonstrate what goes on within the Buss family than present Bynum as a problem waiting to happen. The idea that this kid is favored and protected by Jim Buss shouldn't surprise anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to the team since Drew was drafted. I imagine this will remain the case for Bynum's entire career as a Laker or until Buss puts a few more feathers in his cap, whichever comes first. Is that relationship problematic? I don't know, but I'm inclined to think if Bynum wasn't around, these factions would still find reason to squabble and sometimes act unprofessionally. After all, it was often that way when Drew was still a high school student.
I don't blame Laker fans if that relationship makes them nervous, but keep in mind, Dr. Buss has enjoyed an almost unprecedented degree of success as a sports owner, and that dude is a straight up odd duck. Maybe there's something in the family genes that allows for a mix of strange behavior and O'Brien trophies. Time will tell.
As for a potential "Kwame Part II," like I said when this topic came up about a week ago, I wouldn't rule it out as impossible, especially since big man options are slowly thinning out. When it comes to players capable of pushing in the post, the pickings are basically Brian Skinner, David Harrison (a head case as a Pacer), Adonal Foyle, Jamaal Magloire (meh), Lorenzen Wright (meh again), Theo Ratliff (more meh), Zo/Deke/P.J. (assuming any of the three keep playing), Didier, Michael Ruffin, Randolph Morris (never seen him play, but he's big), maybe Jake Voskuhl... and Kwame. Not exactly a mouth watering crew, making Kwame a reasonable option on paper.
But I still won't believe it until I see it. Or at least hear of meetings.
Putting aside Kwame's deficiencies on the court (basically anything other than bodying a guy) and inability to stay healthy, It would be very ballsy to bring back a player, albeit one that could theoretically fill a specific need, so universally disliked by Laker fans. Particularly on the heels of letting Ronny Turiaf- young, improving and quite beloved- go to Golden State. Unless Brown was signed on the serious cheap, it would be difficult for fans to see his return as anything but an exercise in saving a few bucks at the cost of quality.
Then again, as this front office proved by not bending to outside (and inside) pressure to make "big name" swaps (Jason Kidd, Jermaine O'Neal), they're not afraid to do the unpopular thing if it's believed to be best for the team. I just have trouble picturing them signing up for another go around with Kwame's lack of focus and drive. Great guy, but hardly the poster child for pushing to get the most of his ability.
Save an unforeseen trade, the Lakers may very well find themselves without a better option than Kwame, but I'm expecting every viable course to be explored before offering him a deal.