Regular readers of these pages, are well aware of the amount of criticism that Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum, has received from this corner over the years. Although, Bynum’s talent has never been questioned, his durability certainly has been up for debate; as he has spent a good part of his career in the Association on the sidelines, due to injuries. Spending his first seven seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, the big man showed flashes of greatness for his first six years, but his fragility curtailed his time on the hardwood.
Last season, the center was able to stay healthy throughout the campaign and he showed the planet exactly what he was capable of doing, with a career year. Bynum was the starter for the Western Conference All-Star squad in the middle and a member of last season’s ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM. The big man averaged a double-double for the campaign, putting 18.7 points on the scoreboard, while grabbing 11.8 rebounds off the backboard, along with 1.9 blocks per contest. With the center becoming an unrestricted Free Agent, at the conclusion of the current season, there was talk that Bynum could get a max-contract at the end of this year, if he followed last season up with another great showing.
That conversation would take on greater intensity during the off-season, when Bynum was traded by Los Angeles to the Sixers; in a multi-team, multi-player deal, that also sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers and longtime Philadelphia star Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets. Fans of the franchise were ecstatic with the move, as Bynum told the media, that he thought Philadelphia could be a great fit for a long-term home. Sixers fans believed that they had finally found the player to fill the void left by Hall Of Fame center Moses Malone, who helped the team to their last NBA Title in 1983.
Things have not exactly worked out as planned in the “City Of Brotherly Love,” as Bynum has yet to play a game in a 76ers uniform, now ten-days into the regular season. The team is expecting their center to resume basketball activities in early December, with him most likely being activated some time in January; as a result of knee pain that has made playing an impossibility. The pain had emanated from his right knee, reportedly due to cartilage damage; however before the Sixers defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday night by a final score of 86-79, Bynum updated the media on his condition. A report from “Philly.com” stated that Bynum told reporters, that he now has problems in both knees.
The center told reporters “I had a little bit of a setback and we’re just working through some issues with the right knee. I kind of have a mirror thing going on with my left knee. I don’t know what’s going on, but the doctors are saying pretty much that it’s a weakened cartilage state.”
The veteran also told reporters, he was unclear as to when he would be able to return to basketball activities and ultimately back on the floor. He said “They’re not giving me anything real definite. I’ve just got to wait for the cartilage to get stronger and that’s pretty much what’s going on. The pain is about the same but there is swelling in both knees that we have under control. It’s the same spot, bone bruise on both sides.”
Sixers General Manager Tony DiLeo, is saying all the right things to reporters; stressing they will not rush the big man back to the hardwood and are looking at a long-term relationship. However, what the club’s management is saying behind closed doors, could be a far different matter, than what is said for public consumption. The team has to be questioning, whether they want to put the franchise on the back of a talented player, with durability issues that Bynum brings to the table. That also leads to the question that may be the most important of all to Bynum and his agent; whether any team in the Association, would be willing to give the big man a max-term deal?
Bynum, is only 25-years-old; however given his history of fragility on the court; odds are against him playing another ten seasons in the NBA. If plagued by these injuries at this point; what shape would he be in by his early thirties, when a max-deal would end. This latest setback for Bynum, could be a very costly one for the big man in his long-term career.