: El Segundo Andrew Bynum arrived at The Walter Pyramid in Long Beach a year ago to a maximum capacity crowd, with hundreds denied at the door. More than 5,000 people came to see the youngest player in NBA history in his first Summer Pro league game.
And he had no idea.
"I didn't know that until after," Bynum said. "I thought it was always like that."
Bynum, at 18 still the youngest player in the league, said he expects to see the same type of crowd at the Lakers summer-league opener today. Given how little he played last season Bynum doesn't think his novelty has worn off.
For the past two months he has committed himself to showing everyone how much he has progressed. Instead of returning home to New York, Bynum was at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo every day working out.
"I think he's made tremendous strides," Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis said. "He's been here every day over the summer, lifting weights. You can see his body has changed. He's definitely more mature.
"The strides he'll really make as a player is whenever he's able to get time out there on the court. More games, more touches, more opportunities, a player at his age and his lack of NBA experience, he needs games."
The 7-foot, 275-pound center said he is still learning the nuances of his position, like how to get open and establish position to block and rebound.
"Last year I came here and was shy and tentative," Bynum said. "I had never been through an NBA workout. It's night and day. I can run up and down the court a little better. I'm getting stronger, so getting rebounds and boxing out and getting position is a little easier."
For Bynum, the goal for the seven-game summer-league season is to show he can play real NBA minutes. For first-round pick Jordan Farmar out of UCLA, it is to pick up the system and be ready for training camp.
But for second-year guards Devin Green and Von Wafer and second-round pick J.R. Pinnock, a productive summer league could solidify a spot on an NBA roster. Especially for Green, who is a restricted free agent.
"I've always looked at the summer league as an opportunity to not only showcase yourself for the team you're playing for, but also all the other teams," Rambis said. "What may not work for our system or fit into our roster, maybe somebody else does. Every second you spend out there on the floor, somebody's looking at you."
Green's advantage over eight other unsigned rookies on the Lakers' summer league roster is that he has been with the team for a season and is familiar with the triangle offense. He said he is focused on playing with confidence.
"You can't be too sure, but you can't be worried about it," Green said. "I just wanna go in and play my game and also learn as I go along."
One NBA guard arrived at last year's summer league unsigned and ended up starting every game this past season.
That was Green's teammate - Smush Parker.