What EVERYONE is Saying About the Sixers and Andrew Bynum
The Philadelphia 76ers announced today that the team has acquired All-Star center Andrew Bynum and guard Jason Richardson as part of a four-team trade involving Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando. The Sixers traded forward Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets while sending forward Maurice Harkless and center Nik Vucevic to the Magic along with a protected first round pick.
So, what is the rest of the Planet Earth saying about the trade? Let’s delve, baby!
[This post is absolutely best enjoyed while listening, on loop, to Here Come The Sixers, the song which officially won me over. Today.]
All of these takes include much more and are linked to for further reading. Well worth your time, if you have a lot of it.
Fear No. 1: They're building around someone who just played his first injury-free season in five years. You can't forget the injury risks here, even if (to paraphrase Val Kilmer in Heat), the Bynum is worth the risk.
Fear No. 2: They're building around two of the league's moodiest and most enigmatic players (Bynum and Turner). That one worries me. You can get away with one enigma (see: Rondo, Rajon), but if you have two, suddenly there's a risk that they'll be hanging out and enabling each other's moodiness OR trying to out-enigma each other. Not saying it can't work … just saying it's a red flag.
Fear No. 3: Along those same lines, Bynum is a relatively strange guy, someone who loves pushing buttons, saying head-scratching things and keeping people on their toes. In Los Angeles, nobody really cared — Kobe pulled all the attention away from him, and besides, it's not like L.A. is a ravenous, life-or-death sports market or anything. The Laker fans love their team, but they also live near the Pacific Ocean in a place that's 75 degrees every day. Tends to keep everything in perspective.
Put it this way: You would never put the words "Philly" and "keep everything in perspective" in the same sentence. The two craziest, most overreactionary, life-or-death sports cities in America are probably Philly and Boston — because of their cold weather, because of their provincialism, because of their respective tortured histories, and because their sports media members love nothing more than pushing people's buttons and blowing stuff out of proportion. If Bynum thinks he can show up in Philly and loaf through a game, throw a teammate or coach under the bus, or toss out one of those weird Bynum quotes like, "For as long as I'm on the Sixers, even if it's just for a few months, I'm gonna give it my best" … he's sorely mistaken. Putting a Sixers uniform on Bynum is going to be riveting.
There are, of course, questions about Bynum, namely his health and maturity. First, the health; in his seven years as a pro, Bynum has only played in a full 82 games once. From 2007 until 2011, he missed an average of 30 games due to knee problems. The knee problems were injuries, and not degenerative conditions. He was healthy and very productive in 2011-12, having his best season, scoring 18.7 points per game, grabbing 11.8 rebounds per game in 35.7 minutes per game. Bynum shot 56% from the floor and 70% from the free throw line.
Now, the maturity; Bynum can be a knucklehead, as Charles Barkley would say. Whether it’s throwing forearm shivers in playoff games, getting DUI’s, or shooting three pointers just for the fun of it in close games, Bynum’s character has been a question. That said, so has Dwight Howard’s character.
He does have a real talent for knuckleheadedness, though. For the most part it's annoying but ultimately not the end of the world – like his parking in a handicapped spot at a grocery store or launching a random three up in Golden State. He did manage to get through this past season without a new suspension from the league, so that's a good sign. Drew's never struck me as a bad guy – just someone who gets bored too easily and whose judgment deserts him at times. To me there's no question his extraordinary combination of size, skills and youth make him worth the risk, even at a max salary. He might not ever be as good as Dwight, but he's the next best thing. Philly got itself a damn good player.
The Sixers have talked so long about trading Iguodala and they finally pulled the trigger, landing a franchise center in the process. There's a lot to be concerned about for Philly. He's an expiring contract. He can be problematic on and off-court. He's got a significant injury risk.
But he's also the second-best center in the league. The Sixers have an offensive force to turn to, their biggest problem last season. Evan Turner gave them the ability to move Iguodala without positional loss. Losing Iguodala is a phenomenal talent out the door, but they get one back in Bynum. They needed to try and take a step forward. They did. Iguodala's skills were covered by Turner and Thaddeus Young.
They saw a chance to take a big shot at a superstar center, which Bynum evolved into last year. It was time to pull the trigger.
We'll see if they can hit their target.
J.A. Adande, ESPN: [I totally agree with this and said as much yesterday in summing up my feeling toward getting Bynum. He isn’t the superstar in the deal. In fact, he might not be a superstar at all. Too much flakiness and too many injuries to say that yet. But he’s the best the Sixers could get here. And if it doesn’t work out? They’re not stuck with him.]
Meanwhile, I credit the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets for figuring out a way to draft behind the Lakers and improve their position. The 76ers and Andre Iguodala always felt stuck with each other. Now they both can move on, and Philadelphia added the next-best-center-to-Howard in Andrew Bynum, with their home-team financial edge in re-signing him boosted by their proximity to his home state of New Jersey.
I appreciate what Denver and Philadelphia did. Rather than whine about the unfairness of the biggest stars going to the biggest markets, they decided to get something out of the process for themselves. If it's inevitable — as so many around the league felt about Howard and the Lakers — then why not find a way to profit?
We've rightfully regarded the 76ers' offseason as a disaster to date, but the team has wing depth enough to fill in Iguodala's spot with good enough scorers, and we've all been spared the indignity of a team that was a game away from the Eastern Conference finals deciding to start Kwame Brown and Spencer Hawes in the same frontcourt. There's no plan in Philly, save for grabbing a bunch of players that can play right now under a coach that can really draw up plays (if not make sound personnel decisions regarding minutes and lineups), and we can't fault the 76ers for hopping into this big mess.
It will also take a massive leap of faith, or giant bit of Philly-styled discomfort, for Bynum to pass on the money he can make with a maximum contract with the 76ers in the summer of 2013. He'll flirt and feint, but unless the Sixers really screw this up, he'll be a part of that team until he hits 30. All they have to endure is a few offseason months of Bynum pretending to be ticked off at the trade, a rough regular season where he flirts with every potential suitor's town, and the part in July of 2013 when his agent tells him how much money he can make in Philadelphia over how much money he can make in Dallas.
The Sixers finally got off the pot, to to speak. After talking about trading Andre Iguodala for four years, they finally pull the trigger and land the second-best center in the league. Bynum gives them the dominant offensive force they’ve been looking for, a go-to player who can also defend, and has no equal in the Eastern Conference. With a young, athletic roster and a great defensive system, the Sixers could challenge for the Atlantic title.
That’s assuming Bynum’s healthy. And motivated. And doesn’t kill Doug Collins. Or Collins kills him. So yeah, question marks.
The Sixers go from starting Hawes and Kwame Brown to likely bringing Brown off the bench and playing Thaddeus Young a high percentage of the time at the combo-forward spot. Oh, and they have Lavoy Allen. They have an army of bigs to throw at teams.
Let’s move on to the 76ers, who I loved before this trade, and now really, really, really love. What they lose in Iguodala’s defense on the perimeter, they gain in Bynum’s power and defense inside. If you’re under the assumption that Evan Turner can be nearly as good of a defender as Iguodala in a year or two (raises hand), then this is a massive win for Philly.
Love that roster. Excellent depth. Your 2nd unit has scorers like the Youngs and Wright. Turner can play three positions. The only major flaw is you’ve got some chuckers (Wright, J-Rich, Nick Young), and the potential for problems between hot head Andrew Bynum and Doug Collins (remember, Collins was in DC with Kwame Brown as a rookie, and Collins/Jordan crushed Brown, then 18, on a daily basis). I’ll pencil in Philly 3rd in the East behind Miami and Boston and ahead of Indiana.
Need to get a real backup PG, but besides that there aren’t many problems. If we were one game from the conference finals with Spencer Hawes as our starting center and rookie Lavoy Allen our best defensive big man then I don’t know what the hell the creaky old Jesusless Celtics or dysfunctional Knicks are gonna do. Plus the Bulls won’t have Rose most of the year, Atlanta is just a ghost town, and Orlando is advertising Big Baby Davis? Philly/Brooklyn for the right to meet Miami in the ECF looks way more possible than ever.
Fourthly, you can say “aw man this is going to be Elton Brand/Chris Webber all over again after he hurts his knees and rides the bench on a max contact”. And…well shit…you might be right. But Elton Brand and Chris Webber were already all used up by the time they got here. Bynum is 24!
You probably shouldn't judge someone on their leadership skills while they are getting dressed, just as a rule of thumb. That being said, after spending a little bit of time in the Sixers locker room during their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Celtics, I can say that the most mature, focused, calm, collected, and professional presences on the team were Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand. And they are both gone — Brand amnestied and now a Maverick, Iguodala the latest in a tradition of Philly ballers with the initials A.I. who get traded to Denver. And they have been replaced by Nick Young, Kwame Brown, and Andrew Bynum. Coach Doug Collins fostered a very fraternal, familial atmosphere, but the big brothers have been replaced by the cousins from out of town. I'll take Iguodala for Bynum and Jason Richardson all day. Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Thad Young are all seemingly nice guys, snappy dressers, and solid citizens. And they're adults, so it's not like being around Kwame Stonehands or Swaggy P is going to corrupt them. But with Iguodala as the Sixers' leader, they made up for what they lacked on the floor with an off-court band-of-brothers feel. They had an identity. They just didn't play like it. Now they have a decided on-court persona: assuming Collins doesn't stop talking to him three days into camp, they now, in Bynum, have the best center in the Eastern Conference. Everything should run through him. Getting Bynum in exchange for Iguodala is a no-brainer in every sense except the one that's hardest to quantify. You can guess how it will affect the Sixers as a team. How will it affect the team as a family?
After years of rearranging overachievers, the Sixers suddenly have a pillar to build around. Overnight, everyone else on the roster becomes an afterthought. Oh, Jrue, you want a max contract? Have fun re-living those glorious .488 seasons with Lou Williams in Atlanta! With only Thad Young, Jason Richardson, and rookie Arnett Moultrie signed for more than two seasons, the possibilities for revamping the roster rapidly are exhilarating. How about adding Chris Paul and then pummeling the dog-snot out of the Knicks, Nets, and Celtics? These are the perfect daydreams for Sixers fans to enjoy before Bynum twists his knee, gets Doug Collins fired, and signs with the Mavs.
The Sixers got involved in the sort of blockbuster four-way trade that always seemed reserved for other teams in other towns. This time, Philadelphians don’t have to press their noses up against the NBA storefront glass and stare with envy while another franchise wraps up a big present to bring home to its fans.
The Sixers landed one of the best big men in the league when they moved Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and a lottery-protected first-round pick. What’s not to like about that?
Philly remains a confused, ill-fitting question mark, but upgraded their best player, which is never a bad thing. Their offseason hasn’t made a whole lot of sense to date, and the players they did bring in are now even more awkward of a fit with Bynum in play. Then again, they probably never thought this was possible. And while they had to give up their best player, a huge cog of their impressive defense and three decent young assets to do it, they got an elite offensive player at his position, something they haven’t had since Allen Iverson. In downgrading their defense slightly, they should upgrade their offense significantly, a move they simply needed to make. Now, they just need a Lou Williams type. Whoops.
Finally, some real basketball in this town.