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PHOTO BY PAU RODRIGUEZ, TEXT BY JANIS CARR/OC REGISTER
After six seasons, Lakers center Andrew Bynum seemingly has reached the top. How did he get there, though?
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NBA all-star: Bynum's career headed in right direction

Bynum's career headed in right direction

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Andrew Bynum strode out of Staples Center after a recent Lakers game with the urgency of a man on the move.

The Lakers young center might have been meeting up with friends at a nearby restaurant, or simply heading home to catch up on his reading. The Kindle is never far from his reach.

But where is he headed? Until now, that answer always has ended in a question about his health.

Yet halfway through this lockout-shortened season, Bynum's injury-plagued knees are solid and he has established himself as one of the league's elite big men.

The 7-footer with the deft post moves and monster hands has posted double-doubles in seven of his past nine games, ranks third in rebounding with 12.8 boards a game and is scoring 16.3 points a game, all of which has not gone unnoticed.

His elevated numbers this season has earned him the starting center position on the Western Conference All-Star team, his first such recognition.

He will be joined by Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant and Clippers' Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in Orlando.

"The All-Star Game always been a goal of mine," Bynum said. "I played on all-star teams all though high school and middle school, so it's a big honor to be a part of this one because this is the best one, the cream of the crop.

"It's just been a matter of staying healthy and getting more minutes this year that made it possible."

Bynum came into the abbreviated training camp leaner and stronger after working out with boxing trainer Freddie Roach and conditioning coach Al Ariza. He dropped 10 pounds and further strengthened his core with the help of longtime trainer Sean Zarzana in Atlanta.

"I was definitely working out, boxing with Al Ariza and Freddie Roach," Bynum said in a conference call last week. "They got my balance and footwork up a bit."

Lakers assistant Chuck Person has been pleased with Bynum's transformation this season.

"He's always worked hard, but his body wouldn't allow him to do certain things," Person said. "Now that his body is healthy and fresh, he can sustain more things."

Bynum is in a good place now. For the first time in years, Bynum is playing without pain, without worry and without the constant pressure of living up to expectations.

"When you start thinking about what the coaches are saying and your role on the team and all that, that's when you suffer," Bynum said.

"I didn't do well at the end of last season and the playoffs, but that's all behind me. It's all about playing free. You play free, you play better."

Last season ended badly for Bynum, who struggled throughout the playoffs. Then in a series-clinching victory for Dallas, Bynum's frustration boiled over and he shoved Mavericks' Jose Barea in the chest with his forearm and was ejected.

He punctuated his behavior by yanking off his jersey as he walked off the court.

"Drew is still growing and finding out whom he is," said Person, who joined the staff last season.

"When you have a 7-footer with as much talent as he has there's going to be higher expectations. I don't think anyone is ready at 17 (years old) with a few exceptions, and sometimes it takes centers more time to grow into who they are going to be."

Bynum might have matured over the summer, but he is only 23 years old with a $38 million bank account. Lapses of judgment still happen.

He was stopped twice in a week last December by the L.A. police for driving without a driver's license and having illegally tinted tail lights. This coming after being spotted parked in a handicapped spot.

Bynum declined to talk about those incidents at the time. He said this week that he has stopped caring about fans and the media, preferring to focus on winning games.

"I think Andrew has gotten to a place where he's confident in what he is capable of doing and he's trying to do it in a way that is most effective for the team," Lakers veteran guard Derek Fisher said. "That's what's so great about him being recognized as an All-Star because it's not like he has the freedom to go out and touch the ball every time down the court and statistically blow the cover off.

"So he's doing it in a way that is helping this team win and have success. He's separating himself as one of the top big men in the game."

 


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