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Grant Chapman: NBA stars benched

opinion

By Grant Chapman

Published: 1:27PM Thursday November 22, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

  • Andrew Bynum

One of the really frustrating aspects of the NBA season already is the number of high-profile injuries hampering teams and perhaps none more so than that of Philadelphia centre Andrew Bynum.

Look around the league and there are far too many stars sitting in suits behind benches - Dirk Nowtizki at Dallas, Steve Nash at the Lakers, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio at Minnesota, John Wall at Washington, Derek Rose at Chicago, Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill at the Clippers, Andrew Bogut at Golden State, Danny Granger at Indiana, Dwyane Wade at Miami, Amare Stoudemire at New York, Kyrie Irving at Cleveland, Eric Gordon at New Orleans and the list goes on.

Some of these guys are just old and their absences are a sign of careers winding down. Seven-footer Bynum, though, is a particular worry, since he's only 25, but already has octogenarian knees.

It's eight years since he entered the league straight from high school and, at the age of 17, became the youngest to ever play in the NBA. During that time, he's managed just one complete season - his second - and missed a total of 166 out 558 regular-season games.

The latest news on Bynum is that he may not turn out for the 76ers this season, after aggravating his dodgy knees while bowling. Many think NBA stars should wrap themselves in cotton wool to avoid unnecessary injuries, but it would be a stretch to class ten pin as an extreme activity.

Besides, if bowling was this stressful on Bynum's body, what would five games of basketball in a week do?

You can't help but feel sorry for Philadelphia, who inherited the monster centre as part of the blockbuster four-team trade that landed Dwight Howard at the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this year. Essentially, they gave up Andre Iguodala - a much underrated performer - to Denver for Bynum, who seemed ready to break out as a star in his own right, after years as a Lakers add-on.

Some actually regard him as a better talent than Howard, because at least he can hit the odd free throw. When he's fit, Bynum can be a force of nature and the 76ers offered him a chance to show his full wares.

There's nothing sadder than seeing a potential superstar like Bynum unable to fulfil that promise through injury and you can only hope, at some point, his knees settle down enough for him to rise again.

With this in mind, spare a thought for former Portland centre Greg Oden, who was considered a sure-fire All-Star when he left Ohio State University, but missed his first season after knee surgery and has struggled to get back on court since.

An 82-game season offers a harsh environment for rehabbing chronic injury, so maybe Bynum just needs to go away for a few months and somehow get this right. He may be better for it in the long run.

That's cold comfort for the 76ers, though.

Reaping the benefits

Check out the tail end of last week's blowout win over the hapless Townsville Crocs and you'll find one of the keys to the NZ Breakers' success in recent years.

It's always fun on these rare occasions when a contest enters "garbage time" and teams roll out their benches to avoid needless risk to their stars. These moments also provide a chance to give rookies some experience in a big-game setting and the Breakers are envied around the league for their ability to uncover young talent.

So it was encouraging to see young guard Tai Webster make his Breakers debut and swingman Reuben Te Rangi add to his two previous appearances.

These teenagers are already world champions, having helped New Zealand to victory in the inaugural FIBA 3x3 Youth title last year. Te Rangi was Junior Tall Blacks captain this year, while Webster made a spectacular rise to the starting line-up for the national senior team.

Last week, Te Rangi probably made more of his opportunity, stroking a sweet three-pointer - off a Webster assist - from the corner.

As for Webster, whose older brother Corey was sidelined with a back injury, his arrival will probably be remembered for a spectacular missed dunk, ignoring an open team-mate in the process. Dunks look great when you make them, but just embarrassing when you don't.

Two words for you, son - finger roll - but good on you for backing yourself and taking it to the hoop.

Enjoy Webster's brief cameos this season - next year, he's due to take up a scholarship at the University of Nebraska.

And looking beyond the current Breakers squad, watch out for a kid named Jack Salt. Still at Westlake Boys High School, he's already practising with the pros, he has a big basketball body and looks an exciting prospect.

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