But for the life of me, I cannot seem to figure out what to make of this young man.
On the one hand we have a 7 ft 280 pound baby-eater who, from my vantage point cant seem to miss when he's got the ball in the paint (the dude was leading the league in field goal percentage last season and during the off-season ties Amare Stoudemire and Chris Kaman to a pole in-order to do biceps curls with them). To top it off, in the words (more or less) of long time LaTimes beat writer Mark Hiesler, he descended upon Los Angeles like an angel saving the post-Shaq era.
On the other hand, he just seems kind of goofy. And Im not even talking about the kind of goofy that makes Shaq so enduring. Im talking DREW GOODEN goofy. The kind of goofy that effects the way you play, the kind of goofy that makes me think of the disney character every-time Drew Gooden swivels around for that weird-ass shot. Its the kind of goofy that makes you injury prone, the kind of goofy that makes you an undependable player.
Its not simply the fact that he plays Halo (which is probably about the most normal thing someone his age could be doing) that is bothering me. Nor is it the fact that this isn't his first run-in with letting us know he does kid-stuff when we all think he's supposed to be a baby-eater (remember his myspace page revelation as a 17 year old rookie that Skip Bayless couldn't get over?). Its not even walking into showers with his socks on. It isn't even the fact that every time he seems to get mad or irritated by refs (or for that matter just gets mad for no reason), or celebrates a dunk on Amare Stoudamire (im not even gonna bring up the Shaq fiasco -- ok here it is) he just looks a little odd.
Its the fact that he WANTS you to know his xbox live game tag. Call it pure innocent fun -- issuing a challenge to all the gamers out there to take him on -- but it reminded me of way back when he was a freshly minted rookie (youngest player to ever play in the league in fact), comparing himself to Shaq by telling the world he would in fact be better then his predecessor because he could shoot free-throws. It struck a chord with how, right after his big injury last year, he told the world it wasn't as bad as it seemed and that his knee "felt better right away," only to miss the entire rest of the regular season leaving the lakers with anti-bigmen.
It all seems arrogant.
The kind of arrogance that can go either way in basketball. Its the talking before walking the walk. The kind that can either set you up for failure or the kind that intimidates your opponents. And that IS classic Bynum to me, talking the talk.
Think about it, here he is, after ONLY a half a season of almost utter domination and demolition (even causing the Suns to blow up their team) and he is arrogant enough come out and rave how excited he is to get the season going, how ready he is, how 100% he is, making us all think we are in for 82 more games of pure domination and demolition of all babies. Sure this gets the Laker freaks excited, it gets us ready and pumped for the upcoming season, but it doesn't exactly spell maturity to keep on talking about things your gonna do before you do them. I can't really imagine Karl Malone doing this, or the dream, or whomever, when there only 21 and completely unaccomplished in the only world that matters -- the playoffs.
But its this arrogance that also gives me hope. Its the kind of arrogance that Shaq had... the kind of arrogance that all lakers fans have. The kind of arrogance that allows fans to know that if their team plays the way its supposed to play they will win -- that is, the outcome has nothing to do with the other team. He's the kind of player that just might guarantee a championship or a playoff victory. Come to think of it, here is almost guaranteeing a finals birth this year, with more of his usual talking the talk. Its the kind of talking that can intimidate opponents into giving up before they step on the court, cause they just KNOW you are going to bring it.
And that is what is so perplexing for me. I dont know which one it is. If its the arrogance thats all goofball and leads to injury plagued seasons or is it the kind of arrogance that leads to down the stretch and in the clutch playoff production.
Only time will tell.