Celtics Like Bynum

October 16, 2005

When the Celtics arrived here, rookie point guard Will Bynum had two things on his mind: baked chicken and macaroni.

He could not wait for a home-cooked meal served up by his mother, Rose Robinson. And he got just what he wanted for lunch yesterday before the Celtics played the Bulls at the United Center.

With more friends and family than he could count in the stands, Bynum earned a second wish: more playing time. Injuries to Marcus Banks (stress reaction, left shin) and Delonte West (twisted right ankle) have thrust Bynum into the point guard rotation along with fellow rookie Orien Greene.

Where once Bynum seemed like the odd man out in a five-man rotation, the undrafted Georgia Tech product has seen his odds of staying with the team improve over the last couple days. In the meantime, coach Doc Rivers and executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge have seen the decision about which players to cut become increasingly difficult.

The Celtics have 17 players under guaranteed contracts, though only 15 can make the regular-season roster. They certainly won't carry five point guards, but if Bynum really impresses over the next couple weeks, he has a shot of making the team. And that is a long way from the first exhibition game, in which Bynum did not play because of a coach's decision.

"It helped a lot the first game because I was able to watch and see what Doc wants, how he wanted to pressure the ball," said Bynum. "I was sitting right next to the coaches so I could hear the things that they were saying that need to be done out there.

"I actually think the games are easier, because in practice both teams know each other and know each other's games, know the offense."

As the Celtics completed their comeback and pulled out a victory late Friday night against Toronto, Rivers stayed with his second unit down the stretch. Bynum and Greene split point guard duties. Bynum logged the final 5 minutes 44 seconds, displaying solid chemistry with Justin Reed, Ryan Gomes, Brian Scalabrine, and Kendrick Perkins.

Although Bynum finished with just an assist and a steal in almost 10 minutes, he has proven in the past that he can contribute more offensively. He averaged 12.5 points and 2.5 assists in his final season at Georgia Tech. And although charitably listed at 6 feet, the thickly built Bynum can frustrate opponents with his defensive pressure, something that brings praise from Rivers.

"He did a great job of taking [the Raptors] out of their offense with his ball pressure," said Rivers, who left coaching duties last night to assistant Tony Brown as Rivers attended to family issues in Orlando. "They were trying to start their offense from halfcourt."

Added Bynum, "I just go out there and do the things that I know I can do, and that's getting up, pressuring the ball, trying to take as much time off the clock as possible, and pushing the ball every single time. I just like to see myself out there."

Rivers was impressed enough with Bynum in the Toronto game to move him up the depth chart, if only for the homecoming. If West made a game-time decision to rest his right ankle for a second night, Rivers instructed Brown to start Dan Dickau and bring Bynum off the bench first. Asked why Bynum would fill the backup role instead of Greene, Rivers said "because he's from Chicago" and "every once and a while he needs a chance."

Rivers and Brown, who also hail from Chicago, understand better than most what playing in front of the United Center crowd meant to Bynum.

But that presents its own challenges. Bynum said he had "too many friends and family" in the Chicago area. He took the court looking to impress not only the coaching staff but his own personal cheering section.

No matter what happened, Bynum knew two fans would always be there for him. After all, his mother and 2-year-old nephew Andre Bess are there for Bynum before each game. As part of his pregame ritual, Bynum calls his mother and nephew shortly before tipoff. The conversations are short, usually consisting of his mother asking how nervous he is and his nephew talking about watching him on TV.

"I started it my junior year in college," said Bynum. "I had a real good game against Maryland at Georgia Tech and I just kept doing it."

Bynum scored a season-high 25 points against Maryland Jan. 17, 2004. And that year, all 11 of his double-digit scoring performances took place from then on.

The Celtics are looking for a few good national anthem performers. Singers and musicians are welcome to audition Tuesday from 1-7 p.m. at the Legends Sports Club on the third level of the TD Banknorth Garden. One lucky fan will perform the anthem at Wednesday's game between the Celtics and Bulls. For more details, visit Celtics.com ... Paul Pierce, owner Wyc Grousbeck, Gomes, and Rivers will visit patients at Children's Hospital Boston tomorrow afternoon as part of the Read to Achieve program.

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