On Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers announced that they had exercised their $16.1 million option on Andrew Bynum. Coming into an offseason mired in uncertainty, the one thing that everyone knew for sure was that L.A. management would lock up its franchise center in the short-term.
Between Bynum coming off unquestionably his healthiest and most productive season to date, and Jim Buss’ well-known undying love and affection for all that he brings to the table, there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that the option would get picked up.
What happens in the long-term, though?
That remains to be seen. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
A source close to Bynum said that the All-Star center and the team have "not yet engaged" in any discussions about a long-term contract extension, but that Bynum's camp "anticipated" those talks to occur sometime this offseason.
Next season, the 24-year-old Bynum will be in the final year of a $57 million deal. Obviously, regardless of whether L.A. looks to trade him or keep him this summer, he’ll want the big bucks for his next deal.
While a lot of people (read: us) would love to see Bynum shipped out this year when his stock is at its highest, that probably won’t happen. Again, Buss is in love with his young big’s potential and likely has visions of Bynum going down in NBA lore as the latest in a long line of legendary Lakers centers. (The fact that he, Buss, was the one who found and nourished Bynum from his days as a pup doesn’t hurt matters.)
Still, it’s hard to dispute the fact that the Lakers only have two pieces worth trading, and that Bynum is a far more alluring piece of bait than Pau Gasol is. Buss may not want to part ways with him, but if the prospect of sending him to the Brooklyn Nets for a package that includes Deron Williams comes along – are the Lakers really in a position to reject it?
Picking up Bynum’s option was a formality; now things get really interesting.