CLEVELAND: Final thoughts from Andrew Bynum’s return to the NBA and the Cavs’ 98-94 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
* Seven hours prior to tip-off, General Manager Chris Grant discreetly pulled Bynum into a private corner of Cleveland Clinic Courts, where Bynum presumably made one final plea to play.
* He uprooted his life and moved to Cleveland within days of signing with the Cavaliers. The team doctors told him he could again be the NBA player he once was, but he needed to add muscle to his legs. With $18 million at stake this season and next, he showed up every day for three months and worked six hours a day, worked harder than anyone the Cavs’ training staff had ever seen.
* He sailed through shootaround Wednesday morning with no trouble, at one point reaching up and grabbing the rim from a standing position.
“I’ve never seen anyone do that,” Tristan Thompson told me. “He’s a monster.”
* The meeting between Grant and Bynum lasted less than 10 minutes, then Bynum jogged through the back of the facility and out of sight. Grant moved on to meetings with other staff members regarding Bynum, including the medical team, before finally exhaling and setting him free.
* Bynum played less than eight minutes, but it was his first NBA game in 527 days and left coach Mike Brown wanting more. Bynum was lobbying to keep playing, and Brown conceded he briefly considered before common sense prevailed. There are 81 more games to go. It’s not worth risking a blowout now.
“We’re a different team when he’s out there,” Brown said. “He still has room to grow. You only saw a taste of what he can bring. It was exciting to see him out there. Not only for the coaches, but the players and fans.”
* Bynum only had three points and three rebounds in eight minutes, but don’t let the numbers fool you. The Nets had to change their offensive approach when he was in the game. He closed off the entire lane to dribble penetration and turned the Nets into jump shooters after swatting Deron Williams’ shot off the court. He was also credited for a block on Reggie Evans, although on replay it appeared he didn’t even touch the ball. Still, he clearly altered the shot and forced Evans to bobble it away. Offensively he looked rusty, making just 1 of 5 shots.
* “My timing is off right now, but that’s to be expected,” Bynum said. “I missed a long time out there. I feel like it’s going to come back. The more practice I have, the more 5 on 5 I have the better I’ll be.”
* There was a moment in the second quarter when Bynum looked like his old self. He caught a pass about 12 feet from the rim and swung the ball around his head looking to pass out of the post.
With Brown hollering at him to take it to the rim, Bynum dribbled, lowered his shoulder and bull-rushed his way through All-Star center Brook Lopez and right at the basket. He missed the shot with his left hand, but the sequence illustrated how far he has come.
* “I guess I had tired legs or baby legs as I like to call them,” he said. “I just had to go. I’m kind of sad it didn’t go in. It was a pretty decent move and I’ll work on things from there so I’ll be better next time.”
* The Cavs play at Philadelphia next Friday. Bring a helmet. It’s going to get rowdy.