Andrew Bynum made his Indiana Pacers debut on Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics, and early returns are mostly positive. Bynum provided a nice spark off the bench in a 94-83 victory, which snapped the Pacers' four-game losing streak.
Bynum made his first appearance with 4:22 left in the first quarter, and he immediately made his impact felt. In those four-plus minutes the big man had four points, five rebounds and an assist. His first points as a Pacer came on a dunk on his second offensive possession:
Bynum pulled down three more rebounds in just under four minutes in the second quarter, giving him four points and eight rebounds in the first half alone. Not only did Bynum contribute himself, but his presence also helped open up space for David West as well as fellow bench players Luis Scola and Evan Turner. The 26-year-old was a plus-7 in those first eight-plus minutes of action, helping Indiana open up a lead after a somewhat slow start.
Bynum's second-half stint wasn't quite as encouraging. While he had four points and two rebounds in 7:20 of play, he also committed three fouls, turned the ball over twice and was a minus-10. So not a perfect performance.
Ups and downs are to be expected, especially considering Bynum is playing after missing over two months. He still has a long ways to go before he can be considered a reliable contributor, but what he showed Tuesday has to have the Pacers feeling good.
Bynum drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches. Paul George was effusive in his praise, as was Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, according to Phil Richards of The Indianapolis Star:
"He changes the game and has a presence at both ends," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "He's here for a reason."
Bynum tried to downplay his impact, but he went on to note his oft-injured knees felt great during the game. However, Bynum knows the key is how his knees respond in the days after the game, according to Mark Montieth of Pacers.com:
"Today it didn't bother me because of adrenaline and I had two months off, so it's going to feel good. The key is how it responds and how we can keep inflammation out. If we have inflammation, that starts the whole (troublesome) process. Right now we don't have any."
Bynum was initially going to make his Pacers debut against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, but it was pushed up due to a rib injury to reserve center Ian Mahinmi. Bynum is hoping to play against the Sixers, and if his knees hold up, he may also attempt to play against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.
If Bynum can stay healthy and contribute like he did in the first half against the Celtics, the Pacers will be even more dangerous come playoff time. He could be especially valuable against the Miami Heat, who are a bit lacking in the big man department.