by Mark Mullany
The Philadelphia 76ers have made possibly one of its biggest acquisitions in franchise history: two-time NBA Champion and 2012 All-Star center Andrew Bynum.
When I initially heard about this, I was ecstatic. My Sixers haven’t been a legitimate championship contender since the Iverson days.
My home city hasn’t even brought home the Larry O’Brien Trophy since ’83 (well before I was born), when Moses Malone and Julius “Dr. J” Erving were leading the squad.
Needless to say, Philadelphia is buzzing with excitement for this year’s 76ers. While I am certainly hyped about my team, I also know that we’re talking about the Sixers. I remember when Chris Webber came to this team. One of my friends told me Iverson and Webber would be the next Kobe and Shaq.
Needless to say, he was wrong.
A few years ago, Elton Brand joined the Sixers, only to get injured and never realize the potential he had shown with the Los Angeles Clippers.
No doubt, the Sixers have tried to bring in big talent, but they have been big busts.
Once again, Philly has signed a “big” acquisition, so why will this one be any different?
Right now, there is a raging conflict within me:
Optimistic Mark vs. Pessimistic Mark.
Perhaps, by letting my two fictional (I’m not schizophrenic) perspectives present their sides on this issue, I’ll be able to make up my mind on whether this trade will bring basketball glory back to Philadelphia.
Optimistic Mark: “We going to the ’Ship! We going to the ’Ship!”
Not only do I like the movie “Hardball,” the baseball movie, but also I believe this is the greatest Sixers trade in years. The Era of Iguodala Inadequacy is over. The franchise exchanged a false prophet for a true savior.
If there’s any position the Sixers needed to improve upon for the upcoming season, it was the center spot. This squad is stacked with guards, which include Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Jason Richardson and Villanova’s own Maalik Wayns.
Now, the 76ers have two seven-footers holding down the front-court in Spencer Hawes and Bynum.
The center is coming off his best season with career highs of 18.7 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game. Keep in mind that Bynum totaled up those numbers while on the same team as Kobe Bryant.
Imagine how much more Bynum will score as the No. 1 option for the Sixers. Also, the Sixers’ leading scorer last season, Lou Williams, averaged a mere 14.9 points—and he came off the bench.
Dwight Howard now plays in the Western Conference. This means that Bynum will most likely become the Beast of the East at the five spot. Bynum will also enhance his teammates’ stats. Opposing teams will now have to double-team the center in order to stop him from dominating the paint. For the 76ers, this means that Bynum will be able to dish the ball to an open outside shooter. Holiday and Richardson will be draining a lot of open threes this season.
Without a high-caliber player last season, Head Coach Doug Collins brought this squad deep into the second round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics. The 76ers were one game away from facing the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
With the addition of Bynum, this team could finish third in the East, behind Miami and Chicago. Then, when the playoffs start, anything can happen.
Pessimistic Mark: Bynum isn’t a leader—he’s a cripple. Philly will call him “Bynum the Bum.”
Is it realistic for Sixers fans, or for Collins, to expect Bynum to be “The Man”? In Los Angeles, Bryant was the top dog. He was the guy that made the clutch game-winners and motivated his teammates to bring their A-game every night. Kobe is a classic NBA example of what it means to be “The Man.”
Bynum didn’t have to be “The Man” in his first seven seasons. More importantly, there have been several times when he’s acted immature.
Remember in the 2011 playoffs when the Dallas Mavericks were wrecking the Lakers in the second round? Bynum showed how he handled adversity in the last game of that series.
On the Mavs’ way to completing a four-game sweep over the Lakers, Bynum did his best Hulk Hogan impersonation by clotheslining Dallas’ diminutive point guard, J. J. Barea, who was driving to the basket. The center was promptly ejected, fined $25,000 and called to serve a four-game suspension.
Also, the Sixers added a player who has one year remaining on his contract. What if Bynum does not believe Philly is the place for him to win more championships? At the end of the 2012-’13, Bynum could walk away. This means that the Sixers could have thrown away Andre Iguodala and Maurice Harkless—who was the 76ers’ first pick in the most recent NBA draft—for nothing.
Furthermore, the center has arthritis. He is a 25-year-old man with a 55-year-old man’s disease. The 76ers could commit tens of millions of dollars to Bynum, only for him to get injured. He already has an extensive history of knee problems and of being out for months at a time. His body will only continue to deteriorate. I’m not expecting this center to play far into his thirties as Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan have done.
Is this Bynum trade a stepping stone in the right direction or will this move just end up being another failure that teased me with false hope of an NBA championship?
Clearly, there is a huge opportunity for the 76ers to become a championship contender. The franchise has done its part. Now it is up to Bynum to sign an extension with the Sixers, and it is up to his teammates and Collins to show the center that Philadelphia can win a championship.
The City of Brotherly Love will need some luck, too. Bynum will need to stay healthy. There is no way to guarantee that this will happen, but sports are all about uncertainty.
Ultimately, in order for this story to have a happy ending, Bynum will have to embrace the role of “star player” and bring the best out of his teammates. If this happens, Philadelphia will return to basketball greatness.