By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDEPENDENCE: Andrew Bynum sounded more optimistic Monday just by uttering five words than he has at any point since debuting with the Cavaliers four weeks ago.
“My touch is coming back,” he said.
Bynum has spent the past few weeks mourning his loss of explosiveness, dealing with the sharp pains in his knees every time he runs and battling occasional thoughts of retirement. But after he scored a season-high 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in the Cavs’ blowout loss Saturday at the San Antonio Spurs, Bynum finally found something positive to which he could cling.
Shots that were bouncing around the rim and falling out have started to roll in. He shot 11-of-20 in the two weekend losses, numbers much closer to his career shooting percentage of .566 than the .341 he dragged into the weekend. Those two weekend games increased that percentage to .406.
“It’s the first time he’s gotten close to showing everybody the full package of what he can do,” Mike Brown said. “I obviously saw him at his height when he was an All-Star. He was great offensively, very skilled, but he had an explosiveness to him, too, that we haven’t seen yet.
“Whether we see it or not doesn’t matter because he’s so big and so strong and so long and very intelligent that his offensive game will always be there. Nobody is ever going to block his jump hook, he’ll always be able to step out to 17 feet and knock that shot down. He’ll always be able to step out to the 3-point line and if he’s open, knock that shot down.”
The pain is still there, Bynum said. It’s the same pain that forced him to miss all of last season with the Philadelphia 76ers. The difference, he said, was simply that he had a year to heal. He’s resigned to playing with the pain the rest of the season, but is hopeful another summer of work comparable to what he went through this year will perhaps alleviate some of the pain.
For now, his knees hurt any time he runs or does something explosive, which is why he avoids leaping whenever possible.
“I’ll just stick to the floor,” he said.
That’s fine with Brown, who compared the new Bynum to Roy Hibbert, the Indiana Pacers’ All-Star center.
“Roy is not necessarily a big-time athlete,” Brown said. “Andrew is just as skilled if not more skilled than Roy offensively. Roy is an impact player in this league. Andrew can be an impact player on both ends without getting his explosiveness back because he’s very smart, he’s long, he’s strong, he’s got a lot of intangible things about him that can help get him there.”
Bynum’s defense is still a work in progress. Even in his prime, he was a much better offensive player than defensive. But his massive frame still fills the lane and changes the way opponents attack the Cavs whenever he’s on the floor.
The next step in his recovery will be increasing his minutes, which should help as he tries to build chemistry with an offense that could use another consistent scorer. The Cavs began Monday 25th in the NBA in scoring (93.2 points per game) and 24th in shooting (.423).
Bynum said he has spoken a couple of times with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who overcame numerous foot problems and surgeries to retire as the Cavs’ all-time leader in games played. Like Bynum, Ilgauskas also battled thoughts of retirement during the worst times, but he managed to keep fighting.
Bynum often sounds depressed and unsure how much career he has left, but has started sounding more upbeat the past couple of days.
“We spoke a couple times, really just about showing up and keep going. It’ll come back,” Bynum said. “We missed a really long time, a longer time than a lot of guys do with injuries. So it’s just getting back out there, doing what I need to do and I’ll be fine.”
Jarrett Jack participated in all of practice Monday after straining a muscle in his neck during Saturday’s loss. C.J. Miles, who did not make the trip because of his strained calf muscle, did not participate in contact drills Monday. The Cavs are off until Wednesday’s home game against the Miami Heat.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.