The big news Saturday night in Sixerland had nothing to do with the whupping administered to the local NBA outfit by defending champ Miami. If the Heat showed up the least bit interested, the Sixers were done. Miami did, and Doug Collins’ team was.
Nope, what everybody wanted to know was how Andrew Bynum did during some scrimmage work earlier in the week. Collins reported the center “looked like someone who had not played in nine months.” The good news is “he had fun,” according to Collins.
Twenty-eight games remain for the Sixers, and even if Bynum hits the court for half of them, it would be foolish to consider signing him to a new contract after the season. It doesn’t matter if he helps the Sixers reach the playoffs; it makes no sense to spend considerable money on a player whose knee problems probably aren’t going away—ever. The franchise took a shot on someone it had to know was a big risk, and that one-year experiment has proven to be a gigantic boondoggle. It’s time to move on.
Ditching Bynum will leave the Sixers without a high-quality big man. (Sorry, Spencer Hawes.) That’s not good. But expecting Bynum to be a productive player over the course of a max deal is simply bad business. Within two seasons, the NBA landscape will be changed considerably, as the realities of the collective bargaining agreement negotiated last year take hold. Some teams that have been over the salary cap regularly will be paying as much as $2 for every buck beyond the limit. It doesn’t matter how rich the owners of those teams are; they don’t want to be paying a double penalty.
That means plenty of good players will be available every season, as teams strive to avoid the super tax. Rather than investing in damaged goods like Bynum, the Sixers should work to acquire solid, reasonably priced assets and wait to see who becomes available as other teams jettison pricey players.
The amazing thing about the Bynum debacle is that the team had several doctors examine the hobbled big man, and the Sixers still decided to trade for him. Somehow, wishful thinking trumped sound medical advice. Either that, or the team’s doctors didn’t recognize that he was seriously compromised. As I said, the first scenario is all right; the Sixers had to make a splash. The second is more troubling, because it would indicate the team has to find better doctors.
There can be no question about the path that must be taken. Bynum is not going to be a healthy player. This isn’t somebody returning from a torn ACL, who is rehabbing like crazy and expects to be as good as before. Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo are good bets, because they have been repaired. The Bulls and Celtics can reasonably expect them to be stars when they return. Bynum’s problem is of a degenerative nature, so it’s silly to believe he can return to his former status. Factor in the knucklehead quotient that has been part of his personality throughout his career, and it would be folly to think he is worthy of a fat payday.
A better strategy would be to emulate the Houston Rockets, who have, under GM Daryl Morey, built a young, successful team by attracting talented young players that fit their system and augmented it by trading for James Harden when Oklahoma City was unable to pay him what he wanted. By maintaining cap flexibility and building a core of solid players, the Sixers will be in a position to pounce when teams with sky-high salaries need to get rid of top players. That makes a lot more sense than paying Bynum a lot of money and hoping he gets healthy enough to play several seasons.
The move to attract Bynum was made to maintain fan interest after last year’s improbable playoff run, and it was a nod to the fact that the Sixers were incredibly lucky Rose got hurt during the first round of the playoffs. But the experiment has failed, and even though the Sixers may end up in the playoffs, thanks to the wretched collection of teams in the East, it’s time to move in another direction—without Bynum.
The Sixers would be best served trying to upgrade their roster with small moves that give them cap flexibility (those Jason Richardson and Kwame Brown contracts are killers) and position them to trade for or sign top players when they come available. That’s how it should be done, especially at a time when teams are watching their pennies like never before. There will be great opportunities out there moving forward, so gambling further—this time over the long term—on someone like Bynum makes absolutely no sense. Bynum has had his year in Philadelphia.
It’s time for someone else to reap the “benefits” of signing him for the next five.
• Villanova’s win over Marquette puts the Wildcats in good position for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. But nothing is guaranteed, particularly with post-season tournaments that give other big-conference schools the chance to improve the portfolios. The ‘Cats must follow up their good victory by whipping Seton Hall Monday and then taking one of their final two games, against Pitt and Georgetown. In other words, take nothing for granted.
• It’s funny how fans and media members are so enamored of Chip Kelly’s sarcastic wit and penchant for “telling it like it is.” Of course, he won’t let us know what kind of defense the Eagles will play, and he has been quite evasive about the Birds’ QB situation. If Andy Reid had done that, he would have been fricasseed. But Kelly is “funny,” so he gets a pass.
• So far, so good for the Phillies. Saturday, Cole Hamels looked sharp. Sunday, Roy Halladay felt good. Ryan Howard hit a pair of doubles. Dom Brown smacked a homer. But let’s not get carried away. The exhibition season is all of two games old, and this team has a lot to do before it can consider itself a real contender. A lot.