The Los Angeles Lakers have spent so much time flip-flopping between trading for Dwight Howard and not trading Dwight Howard that they may have forgotten about their own young center.
That's right – Andrew Bynum could leave L.A. in 2013.
Bynum, 24, has a single year left on his current deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. The general consensus has been that he would re-up with the team and stay adorned in purple and gold for the foreseeable future, but the tide might be turning on that.
First, let’s note why Bynum isn't going to re-sign right now. As per Royce Young of CBS Sports: "The extension the Lakers can offer [now] would be a maximum three-year, $60 million deal, which is the kind of extension that basically nobody ever signs…[If you] wait an extra year and you can sign a five-year, $108 million extension with your existing team.”
So that’s why a deal hasn’t been done yet. The question is: will Bynum actually want the big extension when he becomes eligible for it?
Six months ago, the answer would have been a resounding yes. Now, given what we've heard as of late, there are at least some doubts.
Whether it was because he was tired of hearing his name in potential deals for Howard, or because he wanted some leverage over L.A. management when it came time for contract negotiations, Bynum has reportedly leaked a “short list” of teams he wouldn’t be opposed to joining when/if he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Which teams are on his short list? The Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers, apparently.
Via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
Bynum, 24, has one year left on his Lakers contract and has a short list of potential teams with salary-cap space and supporting cast that primarily include the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets with the Cleveland Cavaliers and a "couple others" on the list, league sources said. If Bynum remains with the Lakers past the Howard derby, he’ll have strong incentive to accept a maximum contract extension to stay in L.A., sources said. Otherwise, he has expressed a desire to test the free-agent market.
It’s very hard to envision a scenario where Jim Buss lets Bynum walk away. Mind you, this is a kid he scouted, he brought through the ranks and he stood by in the face of unrelenting trade-him-now pressure from Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. Even with the prospect of attaining Howard right in front of him, Buss has been very apprehensive about letting go of his guy.
The heir apparent has been as close to loyal as you can be in this business.
Still, if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that nothing in the NBA is off limits anymore.
Anything is possible.
Even someone leaving voluntarily leaving the L.A. Lakers.