Veteran center Andrew Bynum will finally make his long-awaited Pacers debut tonight. Head Coach Frank Vogel announced after the morning shoot around that Bynum would come off the bench when the Pacers take on the Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 7:00 p.m. Bynum will pick up the playing time of center Ian Mahinmi, who will sit out tonight's game with a bruised rib.
"We were looking at this week to bring Andrew back anyway," said Vogel. "We're going to use him tonight."
The Pacers signed the 7-foot-1, 285 pound Bynum on February 1st. But they brought him along slowly in practice, working him back into playing shape as Bynum dealt with knee issues as well. Bynum has not played in a game since December 26th, when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bynum averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24 games.
"His conditioning has come a little bit more each week he has been working here," said Vogel. "They've done a lot to strengthen his knees to minimize the soreness. Once he's out there and playing, he's a heck of a basketball player."
Bynum won two NBA titles during his nine seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. But his attitude became an issue in Cleveland this season. The Cavaliers traded him to the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls then released Bynum.
The Pacers try to end a four-game losing streak, the longest skid in the past two seasons.
"I wouldn't call it a funk," said Vogel. "We're not playing our best, but every team goes through this kind of stretch. You just got to keep working each day and we'll get out of it. We're not that far from who we are, it's just a matter of putting together a complete basketball game."
Former Butler coach and Zionsville native Brad Stevens is in town. Stevens has led the rebuilding Celtics to a 22-41 record in his first season as an NBA coach. The Celtics have won their past two games. He expects the Pacers to be hungry to get back to their winning ways.
"They're going to play extremely hard," said Stevens of the Pacers. "They're going to play extremely crisp. It's great for our team to play against a team that plays like that, because you see where you are and you see how far you have to grow. I would think there are a lot bigger things to worry about than the Pacers right now here. They're going to be in great shape. I don't have any concern for their ultimate success this season."