Sept. 27, 2016
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
– Nothing’s ever come easy for Will Bynum, but give him the slightest opening, and he’ll capitalize.
He did it for Georgia Tech against Oklahoma State on April 3, 2004 in the NCAA Tournament national semifinals, as, in the closing seconds, given just a crack at the top of the lane, Bynum weaved his way through the lane and layed in the points that sent Georgia Tech to the championship game.
Bynum plans on showing his ability to close the deal again in the coming weeks, as he’s been invited to training camp by the Atlanta Hawks with a shot to earn a spot on the team.
Bynum has always found a way to make his dream of playing pro ball come true. Despite never being drafted, he’s made the NBA and played eight seasons in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors (2005-06), Detroit Pistons (2008-2014), and Washington Wizards (2014-15). He’s also played in Israel and most recently China.
Making this year’s Hawks team will be a daunting task. The Hawks are deep with younger guards, but shortening and overcoming long odds are something that’s right up Bynum’s alley.
“It’s a unique situation, but I’m prepared. I’m extremely prepared. I pretty much live with my back against the wall, so this is nothing new for me,” said the 33-year-old guard, who was signed a non-guaranteed contract by the Hawks on Sept. 16. “I’ve been in camps with Chauncey Billups, Allen Iverson, Rodney Stuckey, Brandon Knight. This is something similar to what I’ve always been through. It’s nothing new to me. I’m extremely comfortable yet, I’m on the edge. I play on the edge. That’s my mentality, I’m just going to do what I do and let the chips fall where they fall.”
Bynum is back in the U.S, after spending the end of last year making his second stint playing with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association. In 29 games (20 starts), he scored 17.8 poiints, grabbed 4.3 rebounds, handed out 6.5 assists and made 2.3 steals in 34.4 minutes per game. He showed he still has the stroke, shooting 49.5 percent, 34.1 from three-point range and 86.2 from the line.
Being overseas was a life-changing experience for the Chicago native, who’d played there in 2014-15 as well. He took on a mentor’s role to rising Chinese star Yi Jianlian, who is looking to make it with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I was with him for a year and a half, and we spent a lot of time together and it was real big,” Bynum said. “I learned a lot from him, and he learned a lot from me as well.”
Bynum knew he wanted to play somewhere this season — he’d been training for that — but had ruled out going back across the Pacific, primarily because has family matters on his mind. He and wife, Andrea, are about to welcome the couple’s third child and first son into the world.
“I was definitely preparing to stay here,” he said. “I didn’t want to take a chance of going overseas and not being here for that, because I know she’s going to need me. It’s been a high-risk pregnancy.”
Will and Andrea have not agreed on a name yet — “We’re doing a lot of research right now, something that’s definitely dear to my wife and me” — but he knows he wants to be around for the delivery and beyond. It’s something he was able to do with daughters Aliya and Laila, but wouldn’t have been able to do had he gone back to China.
“Early on, my daughters were with me in Detroit, so it wasn’t that hard. But it got hard when I started going over to China and missing out on all that time with them,” he said. “It’s a sacrifice, but I have a good circle around me, and we make the best of it.”
Life with his first son will be different. He admits that it already is.
“It’s been kind of like pressure. I don’t know how to explain it, but with my two daughters, it was totally different.” he said. “It’s a pressure that I kind of feel to live up to being the best man that I possibly can be as far as setting an example for my son. This is my first son that’s coming. I kind of feel that type of pressure, and on every type of decision that I’ve been making ever since I heard the news, it’s in the back of my head. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s there, and I’m just trying to embrace it and master each day and conquer each day and get the most out of myself each and every day.”
It’s the kind of challenge that brings out the best in Bynum. Physically, he’s at his best. With his training regimen, he was ready when the Hawks called him out of the blue and flew him in for a series of workouts.
There was an opening.
“I came down and worked out for a few days and [Hawks] Coach [Mike Budenholzer], and I had a great conversation,” he said. “He asked me if I was interested in coming to camp, and I jumped on it. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m just extremely pleased to have that opportunity and am ready to take advantage.”
Coming back to Atlanta means being reunited with former Jackets teammate Jarrett Jack. The duo, who were backcourt mates and inseparable off the court while on the Flats, now are roommates.
“I told him, ‘Get out of that hotel. Come stay at the house with me,’” said Jack, who said he didn’t know Bynum even was in town working out until he got a call from Bynum telling him about having earned his contract. “I’m sure if it was a situaiton where I was in Chicago in his neck of the woods it would be the same way. We definitely have a bond like brothers, and we look out for each other just the same. I couldn’t be more excited for him. I’m getting prepared to be alongside him one more time.”
They’ve wasted no time catching up.
“It’s been great. I haven’t seen Jarrett since college,” said Bynum, with a laugh. “I moved in with him a few days ago. It’s crazy because during our past, we’re chasing trying to be great and you’re chasing mastering your craft, you lose sight of what you’ve done during the process of it. It’s crazy to talk to Jarrett about some of the things we’ve done together and the memories that we have together. The good fortune to have the opportunity to play with him is amazing.”