Will Bynum is actively exploring a return to Maccabi Tel Aviv, the Israeli team with which he played for two seasons from 2006 to 2008. Kudos to David Pick of Eurobasket.com for breaking the story over the weekend, which Mark Bartelstein, Bynum's agent, confirmed Monday to Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News:
"I would say you have to look at everything," Bartelstein said. "Will loves to play; it's how he makes his living."
Eurobasket.com, a website that covers the international game, reported Sunday that Bynum is interested in returning to Israel so he can join childhood friend Jeremy Pargo, a former Gonzaga standout.
Pargo and Bynum grew up on Chicago's south side and were considered playground legends.
[...] "Will loved his time with Maccabi, and we're taking it one step at a time," Bartelstein said. "Nothing's off the board, they treated him great. He's always talked about wanting to go back to Maccabi at some point in his career."
(Random trivia: Pargo is the younger brother of Chicago Bulls guard Jannero Pargo and a former college teammate of Austin Daye. He played on the Pistons summer league team in 2009, averaging 10 points in three games.)
Considering Bynum signed a three-year contract with the Pistons last summer, his Maccabi homecoming will last only as long as the lockout, right? In his initial report, Pick suggested otherwise:
Bynum aka 'Bynumite', for his explosive athletic ability, played the last three seasons in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons and still has a signed contract with the organization. However, sources close to the player confirmed that he might be interested in opting out of his contract to join Maccabi. 'He did love playing overseas and especially with Maccabi and would never turn down an opportunity to go back if it made sense.'
I'm not sure how to interpret Pick's report, since I'm almost positive Bynum doesn't actually have the ability to opt out of his contract once the lockout is over. Maybe I'm wrong, or maybe Pick simply made an incorrect assumption. Unfortunately this wasn't addressed in Goodwill's confirmation. I'll try to hunt down more details on this.
Either way, if Bynum truly wants out of his contract and is willing to leave money on the table to continue playing in Israel after the lockout, it's at least possible that Joe Dumars might do him a favor and simply release him. Giving away affordable assets for free isn't exactly the smartest thing to do, but that's never stopped Dumars in the past (see: Afflalo, Arron and Johnson, Amir).
If Bynum has in fact played his last game for the Pistons (and mind you, that's a big "if" at this point), I'll be sad to see him go. My bias for him goes beyond enjoying watching him play -- of all the NBA players I've ever interacted with during my time with FanHouse and HOOPSWORLD, Bynum is right near the top in terms of being the most professional and courteous. I wasn't present for any of last season's soap opera, but I wasn't surprised that Bynum was never implicated in any of the buffoonery.
Completely irrelevant addendum: Just for kicks, since the mere possibility that Bynum has played his last game for the Pistons has me feeling nostalgic, here's a portion of an interview I did with Bynum in April 2009:
MW: What was your "welcome to the NBA" moment?
Will Bynum: [Pause.] When Chauncey got traded. When Chauncey got traded it was kind of crazy for me. I mean, not really crazy, but for it to be Allen, one of the players that I looked up to my whole life – and to be on the same team with him was just crazy.
And once I got to practicing against him, it was like, "You know? I'm good!" [Laughing] I've been watching this guy, looked up to this guy my whole career, and to be on the same team with him and playing against him – it's not a word that I can tell you that can explain how I felt.
And just to keep doing it, I was more and more confident, I was gaining more and more confidence as we practiced, as we played, just from being around him. It's kind of crazy, but that's how it was, that's exactly how it went. After that, I just never turned back. I tried to learn as much as I could from him, and I never turned back. I felt like playing against anybody else would be – it's still going to be difficult -- but I felt like it was easier because I got over the thing of playing against Allen. It just helped me out.
In part because I was bored, and in part because I've always wanted to mess around with SoundCloud, I actually managed to find a recording of that interview buried on my hard drive. Remember, this is old -- April 10, 2009, to be exact -- and in the midst of Bynum's hot streak which included that 26-point fourth quarter. Excuse my rambling, watch out for the loud, squeaky chair in the beginning and stay for Kwame Brown's shenanigans at the end:
Gracias to DBB reader TDP for posting the Eurobasket link as a FanShot