People are upset. Understandably so. Because in his eleventy zillionth media appearance this year, Andrew Bynum gave Sixers fans — and non-Sixers fans, and Philly sports fans, and Philly residents, and South Jersey residents, and… — the Charlie Murphy treatment. At least that's how it feels.
He reminded you that at his age, all the world — and money in it — lays before him. And with the "it's my life" comment, that he doesn't give a damn what you think. In a way, Bynum's right. He shouldn't have to play through pain — not of the prohibitive or career-threatening sort, anyway.
But even if it's just a nice thing to do, you should, you know, at least give the guise of trying to actually (as Kyle first italicized) earn your $16 gadzillion. Be a professional. Say the right things at the right times, and try — just try — to not force-feed the wrong things at the wrongest times.
But Bynum's not a professional. In fact, the descriptors that best capture who he is and what he's about are probably the antonyms thereof: he's arrogant, defiant, irreverent, indignant, petulant.
And that pisses people off. Again: understandably so.
But Friday wasn't a tragedy to be mourned. Nor was the trade that served it to Philadelphia.
Quite the opposite.
Let's start with the here and now:
Basically, Andrew Bynum's time in Philadelphia is over. He made it clear he's not going to play this season. And without seeing him on this side of…well…whatever the hell is wrong with his knees, the Sixers won't do a one or two-year deal in the $10 million per range. No way. Doug Collins is fed up with him. Rod Thorn has to be. Regardless whether those two have a future here, CEO Adam Aron is too conscious of his regard with (a) fans and (b) Collins' and Thorn's eventual replacements to meddle with even a short-term thing, knowing how easily it could become a long-term thing.
There's also something to be said of the learning experience. Frankly, Philadelphia — not its basketball or anything — has been a part of something like this. Most haven't. Neither, then, has Aron, whose previous professional expertise was limited to (ironically) distressed assets.
This whole debacle is his, and the franchise's, saving grace.
Imagine if Bynum had been healthy, had played, had made the Sixers a top-3 team in the East, and the prohibitive favorites to challenge the Miami Heat. He would've had a max contract, five years and $100 million, after the first week of the season. Then what?
People (still) argue that Bynum's worth it (or can be), and use his NBA Championship pedigree with the Lakers as Exhibit A. Only, that's (part of) what made him how he is. Imagine what he'd be with the ego of a two-time NBA Champ and security of one of the biggest contracts in NBA history.
Now, the Sixers have the opportuntity to walk away unscathed, and, maybe, better for it.
On the trade at the time:
People forget the circumstances. They forget Andre Iguodala's contract, and the fans' fatigue with him. They forget the wealth of "tweeners" — Iguodala, Evan Turner, Thad Young, Moe Harkless, Arnett Moultrie — on the roster, and how with an interior presence they all would've fallen into place. They forget that Nikola Vucevic wasn't a Doug Collins guy, and so had no future here. They forget that Harkless was an iffy prospect coming out, and might not have had a future anywhere. (He still may not.) They forget that all the Sixers signings and trades earlier that offseason were to enable exactly that type of move, a shot, a prayer, low-risk, high-reward.
Most importantly, they forget, change sometimes changes people. Even people like Bynum.
For someone like me — an irregular CB contributor, and the guy who wrote this — to again put pen to paper on the issue might come off like me (again, in homage to Kyle…) "swinging (my) dick." Far from it. I'll acknowledge that I was one of the few to curl a lip, to raise an eyebrow, to first consider the circumstances, not the sensation. Sure, I called it: Bynum was, as I said, "radioactive." And that should've been seen from a mile away as something that could've precipitated this.
But let's be real: Nobody saw the knee thing coming. Not the Lakers. Not the Sixers. (Bynum? I think we've wasted enough time figuring out what makes this guy tick. Who gives a shit.) Not me. And certainly not any of you. Of course, that too pisses you off. You feel duped. Punk'd. Played. For a fan base that's smarter than it gets credit for, and, again, never gets credit for it, that stings.
But it's important to remember what actually happened, and why. Bynum's degenerative condition isn't what's broken your heart. It's him. His attitude. His work ethic. His (any virtue you've ever seen on a plaque in a high school locker room). If the guy was too hurt to play, but bothered to consider your emotional investment, you'd be bummed out, but you wouldn't feel disrespected.
Let that sink in, because it should change the way you feel about it — and yourselves.
There are other considerations to be made here.
For one, after Collins' push for power this offseason, he not only had a significant role in trading for Bynum, but also (maybe) in scaring off the guy who could've fixed this: Danny Ferry, who spurned the Sixers after it was reportedly a done deal to replace Thorn as GM and instead became President of the Hawks, almost the worst job ever, yet one he'll make due with, because he's, well, him. (The fact that Tom Penn did the same thing seemingly 30 seconds later supports the Collins Scared Him Off theory.) And for that, maybe more than his essential concession in that awesomely bad 11-minute meltdown that he has no influence over a team he built, Collins' future should be in serious question.
Another, Bynum isn't walking away scot-free. This will catch up to him. Maybe sooner rather than later. But eventually, no matter how badly NBA clubs will covet the consummate counter-culture move — attacking with a big and a guard in swing player-driven league — they won't sacrifice gadzillions on Bynum. At least not the kind he wants. One day, you'll indulge in his disappointment.
For now, though, take what happened for what it is: a learning experience.
And not a bad thing for the Sixers.