Shaq: Bynum's the best big man in the game

Shaq: Bynum's the best big man in the game

Published Jan. 19, 2012 9:08 a.m. ET

There is no shortage of nicknames that the playful Shaquille O'Neal could bestow upon Andrew Bynum, from the Big Successor to Shaq Lite to the Most Dominant Since I Retired.

O'Neal wouldn't go there.

The TNT analyst adopted a more serious, highbrow tone Monday inside Staples Center when asked to assess Bynum's play this season.

"He's the best big man in the game right now," O'Neal said of the Lakers center. "He's the only big man in the league that's playing like a true big man."

Indeed, seven months after he leveled Jose Barea with a forearm in the playoffs, Bynum returned as if he intended to flatten the rest of the NBA. In his first three games this season, the 7-footer averaged 22.7 points and 17 rebounds, an unsustainable pace but one that reflected Bynum's ability to be a force on all 94 feet of the court.

Only a month earlier, Bynum had sat before a phalanx of media at the Lakers' practice facility and announced that his role essentially had not changed since last season, when he became the cornerstone of his team's defense.

"I wouldn't say that I have more to do," he said, "but I definitely don't have less to do."

Bynum currently averages 16.5 points and 10 rebounds a game.