NEW YORK -- If the Heat is surprised or concerned about the Pacers adding even more size to their lineup with the addition of Andrew Bynum, the defending back-to-back champions didn’t show it Saturday.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade shrugged when asked about Bynum joining the Heat’s main rival in the East, and Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said his team was more worried right now about fixing its own problems than contemplating how Indiana might have gotten better. Bynum, the former star center with the Los Angeles Lakers, signed with the Pacers on Saturday for the veteran’s minimum. He will back up All-Star center Roy Hibbert.
“I don’t know what their perspective is,” Spoelstra said of the Pacers. “We’re just focused on us right now. I’m sure it makes for compelling story lines. He fits their style in terms of being big and physical in the paint, but from our standpoint that doesn’t affect us.”
But it could in the playoffs.
The addition of Bynum gives the Pacers another element of size to throw at the Heat during a seven-game series. The Pacers entered Saturday three games ahead of the Heat in the standings and have put a top priority on winning home-court advantage for the playoffs. The Heat routed the Pacers at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. The Heat has won the East three seasons in a row.
“We didn’t have much of a reaction at all,” James said of the Bynum news. “We talked about it [Saturday morning] … and guys said they seen it and that’s it. We didn’t have a conversation about it.”
Earlier this season, the Cavaliers suspended Bynum indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team before dealing him to Chicago. The Bulls then released Bynum, making him a free agent.
There was speculation that the Heat had interest in Bynum after trading Joel Anthony, but several sources familiar with the Heat’s front office told the Miami Herald that there were concerns that Bynum might have disrupted the Heat’s locker room chemistry. The Pacers front office apparently had no such concerns.
“We are obviously happy to have him join our team,” Pacers president Larry Bird said in a statement. “He gives us added size, he is a skilled big man and he has championship experience. With the minutes he gets, he should be a valuable addition.”
Bynum’s released statement seemed to take a slight shot at the Heat.
“It really wasn’t a hard decision; I think it’s the right fit for me and, in all honesty, I think we’ve got the best chance of winning,” Bynum said. “It will be great to back up Roy, and I’ll do whatever I can to help this team.”
Tim Hardaway Jr., son of the Heat legend, received an ovation from the Madison Square Garden crowd Saturday after delivering a hard foul on James in the first quarter.
Hardaway, a rookie, is currently a Knicks fan favorite. He scored a career-high 29 points Thursday in the Knicks’ victory against the Cavaliers.
“We’ve known Tim Jr. since he was this tall,” Spoelstra said before the game, holding up his hand a few feet off the ground. “He has been a fixture in our gyms forever. I remember seeing him in junior high school and pick-up games during the summer. I saw him in high school. He played for one of my friends at Palmetto.”
“So, we’ve seen him grow up and now to see him make an impact in this league, it does make you realize how old you’re getting. But he’s having a terrific year, and he puts in a lot of work. He is a student of the game, and if there is an open gym anywhere, he’s there.”