If the Sixers’ season were an episode of The Flintstones, it would make perfect sense that hobbled center Andrew Bynum would have been out bowling earlier this month. Fred, Barney and the rest of the gang spent a lot of time at the lanes. But seeing how this is much more serious business than a cartoon depiction of prehistoric times, Bynum’s decision to go keggling while trying to get his porcelain knees in condition to help the team – beyond providing nightly entertainment with his choice of coiffures – established him as a modern-day Joe Rockhead.
Sunday, Bynum confirmed reports that had surfaced Friday that the recent excursion by the alley cat had led to further aggravation for his already delicate knees. Now, instead of just the right one’s precluding Bynum from taking the court, the left has been compromised as well. That early January return to action now seems overly optimistic, and it may be several more weeks before the seven-footer can play for the Sixers.
Since there is no clause, corollary or codicil in an NBA contract that prevents a player from channeling his inner Johnny Petraglia, Bynum is guilty of nothing more than poor judgment. By doing anything other than resting, icing or praying for his knees, he risked further injury and gave credence to those who questioned the Sixers’ decision to acquire him in the first place. Both of the key arguments against Bynum are in play here. First and foremost, he is more fragile than a Faberge egg. Secondly, he is capable of some crushingly bad decisions. (It is a measure of just how much this team wanted to get rid of Andre Iguodala that they took such a chance on Bynum.)
Remember what the NBA executive said about him back in the summer? Here’s a taste:
“He’s the most immature, me-first, undedicated All-Star in the league. He’s surrounded by a bunch of sycophants (chiropractors, workout guys, etc.) that know little-to-nothing about what it takes to be successful. That’s exceeded in disappointment only by Bynum’s lack of work ethic. He doesn’t love the game, and his knee will never survive the length of his next [long-term] contract.”
This latest setback must serve as a highly instructional episode for the Sixers. Although new GM Tony DiLeo continues to say the team is looking to establish a long-term relationship with Bynum, that would be an awful decision. If you thought Iguodala’s contract was moderately onerous, imagine how you would feel if the Sixers were paying $20 million a year to someone for whom bowling qualifies as strenuous exercise.
As I wrote when the Sixers jumped into the blockbuster built around immature, overrated Dwight Howard, this was a move they had to make. Being mediocre in the NBA is death. Either you contend for a title or stink badly enough to get a high Lottery pick that could lead to big things in the future. Last year’s Sixers snuck into the playoffs and benefitted from Chicago’s injuries to win their first-round series. That’s hardly a blueprint for annual success. Plus, there were whispers around the league that several players had begun to tune out coach Doug Collins.
Changes had to be made, and the Sixers made them, importing nine new players on their 14-man roster and taking the chance with Bynum. Actually, it wasn’t much of a chance. The Sixers would be able to try him out for a season and see whether his potential outweighs his documented liabilities. Only 10 games into the season, the team has its answer. Bynum’s knees are a mess, and the likelihood of their improving as he ages and abuses them with further basketball activity – and bowling – is minuscule. It doesn’t matter whether he undergoes every experimental treatment Eurodoctors can concoct or takes so many lubricating injections into the joint that he bleeds 10w-40, the only thing that will ever help the area is a full replacement, and that procedure isn’t congruous with NBA success. Unfortunately, it appears as if Bynum is destined for the same fate as Greg Oden and Brandon Roy have experienced. His knees are damaged, and their long-term outlook is quite cloudy.
So, while DiLeo continues to talk about a long-term marriage of franchise and player, the Sixers have to be smart enough to know that it is an awful idea. Bynum’s latest setback proves that he’s too risky a bet. The Sixers need to get what they can from him this year and move on. Let Bynum’s knees be another team’s problems. The big man is the ultimate long shot, or to put it in terms he will no doubt understand, he’s a seven-ten split.
And nobody wants to deal with that, not even Fred Flintstone.
- It’s over, folks. The Eagles are through with 2012. Let’s hope Howie Roseman makes it clear to the team that every practice and game from here on out is an audition for next year. Nick Foles was hardly the only reason for Sunday’s loss to the Redskins. This team is filled with excel baggage, and it’s time to determine what to keep (a little) and what to jettison (a lot).
- If Rutgers and Maryland join the Big Ten Conference, get ready for another round of seismic conference changes, and the Big East will be the big loser. Florida State and Clemson may look into joining another league, which means the ACC will likely pillage the Big East for inventory. The Big 12 could lure Louisville and Cincinnati away. The upshot? Within a couple years, the Big East may be nothing more than Conference USA with a more colorful history.
- Hats off to Temple running back Montel Harris, who posted 351 yards and seven TDs against Army Saturday. Let’s hope he kept a little something in the tank for Syracuse Friday, since a victory over the tough Orange will give Temple five wins and could propel the Owls into a bowl game, if not enough teams reach six victories. It’s a long shot, but nobody expected 351 yards out of Harris, either.