Bynum to make Pacers debut tonight vs Celtics
38 days after signing with the Pacers, center Andrew Bynum will suit up for the first time Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“Andrew’s going to play tonight,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after morning shootaround. “Ian Mahinmi is banged up. He got a bruised rib the other night and is unavailable. We were looking at this week to bring Andrew back anyway.”
That bruised rib will keep Mahinmi out for just the second game this season. Vogel even indicated that Mahinmi probably wouldn’t have been able to play if they needed him. Backup point guard C.J. Watson will miss his fourth consecutive game with a sprained right elbow.
Vogel plans to allocate Mahinmi’s 16 minutes to his newest big man. And while Bynum’s not under a defined minutes restriction, Vogel said he’ll be smart about it and play him in short bursts. When Bynum checks in, it’ll be his first game minutes since his last game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, back on Dec. 26.
Bynum joined the team for their three-game road trip that lasted five days, and fully participated in practice on Saturday, ”where he looked really good,” according to Vogel.
“I think his conditioning has just come a little bit more each week that he’s been working here,” Vogel said. “They’ve done a lot to strengthen his knees to minimize the soreness. Once he’s out there, when he’s playing, he’s a heck of a basketball player. We know that. It’s just a matter of getting him in that game shape and getting him up to speed with our system.
“He’s got great size protecting the rim and then on the offensive end, he’s very, very, very skilled. Everybody talks about how big he is but nobody talks about how skilled he is. He’s a terrific basketball player.”
Might Vogel play his two 7-footers, Bynum and Roy Hibbert, at the same time?
“No,” he said while grinning and nodding his head up and down. “I don’t intend to use that lineup.”
“Too much speed,” he joked.
Dan Dyrek, the team’s Physical Therapist Consultant, joined the team for the road trip in part to evaluate and work with Bynum.
Upon returning from Texas, Vogel met with Larry Bird, Pacers president of basketball operations, to discuss the current state of the team and they decided that tonight would be the right time for Bynum to begin contributing on the floor.
With the Pacers dropping their past four games, the team hopes the All-Star center can provide them with an emotional jolt they need.