I’m not much of a NBA fan and not even much of a Philadelphia 76ers fan. Some of my favorite players won Sixers uniforms. Moses Malone. Charles Barkley. Maurice Cheeks. Allen Iverson. Julius Erving. There isn’t anyone on the 2012-13 edition of the Sixers remotely approaching those guys. The NBA is full of teams with dummies in the front office, coaches whom haven’t won a thing yet are on huge ego-trips, poorly put together rosters, overpaid players loafing through the grind of the season and it all cascades into a waterfall of failure. This year’s 76ers accomplished all of that by making one wrong move.
That was supposed to change this season. Having made some progress in the playoffs last year the Sixers got the idea they were only one player away from really making some noise and possibly challenging the mighty Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy. So they let Lou Williams, their leading scorer, leave as a free agent. They used the amnesty clause to cut starting power forward Elton Brand loose. Finally, they traded their best defensive player, Andre Iguodala as part of a three-team deal that brought the last piece of the puzzle to Philly, a legitimate 7-footer in the middle, Andrew Bynum.
And they lived miserably ever after. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Sometimes you try to go big and make a big deal only to have it go as horribly wrong as possible. That’s what happened to the Sixers.
Bynum hasn’t played a second for the Sixers due to his lingering knee issues and it looks like he never will. The Sixers have the fifth-highest payroll in the NBA and over $32 million of it is tied up between two guys, Bynum and Brand, that haven’t played one second for them. That goes beyond simple bad luck to bungling on a grand scale. Having paid Bynum $16 million to do nothing but re-injure the knee he was supposed to be rehabbing while bowling and to show off his hairstyles, the 76ers now find themselves in the awkward position of probably overpaying to keep him for next season.
The person who will likely be blamed for this debacle is head coach Doug Collins. Not a bad guy or a bad coach, but part of a “brain trust” that brought Bynum in, shipped a lot of players out, and all they have to show for it is a 23-38 record, losing 11 of their last 20 games, no playoffs and a nice seat at the NBA Draft Lottery. This isn’t all Collins’ fault, but a lot of it is. He wanted Bynum in the worst way and that’s exactly how he got him.
It’s sad to think there isn’t a coach in the NBA who could win with this team, but let’s face it when Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown are getting major minutes in your frontcourt you are doomed. Collins envisioned a Hawes/Bynum duo with Hawes playing the Pau Gasol role, a skill set Hawes has never shown he has. They would have been better served trading for Pau Gasol.
Barring a signed (not a sure thing) and a healthy (even less of a sure thing) Bynum, odds are the Sixers aren’t going to be any better next year even with a high draft pick because Collins hates giving minutes to young players. Too bad because the Sixers need to ship out much of the scrap and spare parts that clog up the roster now.
The Sixers should bring back Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie. With the exception of Holliday, none of them are All-Star material, but they could form the nucleus of a team that might one day be competitive if it decided to build its own talent through the draft rather than look for quick fixes that aren’t like Bynum. I left off first round pick Evan Turner because while he may not be a bust, he is beginning to look like he’ll never be a star either. It’s hard to since Turner is trying to show what he can do without much help from the coach and a roster starved of talent.
Either way, the Sixers have been bad enough to justify firing Collins and there’s got to be someone that can build something resembling a competitive team. Toward that end with games left the talk is starting would it be better for the team if they started losing more in order to improve theirNBA draft lottery chances?
Collins would sooner commit ritual suicide than deliberately tank games to do…well, to do what exactly? Add a few more ping-pong balls in the hopper?
At some point you would think someone in the front office would go to D.C. and say, “Doug, we love ya man, but you gotta get over your infatuation for creaky old vets who can’t play anymore and ‘talents’ who really aren’t. You’ve got to get younger, you’ve got to follow the formula of the Oklahoma City Thunder where you draft and nurture your own talent. If you absolutely must make a deal for a veteran to fill a perceived need, don’t overreach to the point it sets you back instead of moving you forward.
LeBron James summed up The Sixers season in 20 words: “Holiday is a great player, but he needs help,‘’ James said. “We all thought Bynum would be a huge piece for them.” So did the Sixers.
Another year of The Andrew Bynum Show starring his bad knees and fabulous hair styles would be reason enough to sue to have the 76ers broken up for rank incompetence and gross stupidity.
No way can you give this guy a max-deal contract. It would be like giving a flame thrower to a pyromaniac. You offer him a short three years and if he doesn’t like it, let him walk and Houston or some other sucker can overpay him.
Remember the words of the former teammate who said of Bynum “I’ve never met another player in the league who likes basketball less.” Is that a guy it sounds like you want to build around?
We’ve seen ample evidence Bynum has no heart for the game, no loyalty to his teammates and whenever an opportunity arises to look immature and selfish he takes it. The temptation is to write this season off as a lost cause, back up the Brink’s truck, shower Bynum with guaranteed millions and hope like hell he plays hard.
DON’T DO IT!
- Marcus Hayes: 76ers created their mess, starting with Andrew Bynum (sacbee.com)
- Sixers Paying Two Of The 30 Worst Contracts In The NBA, One Honorable Mention (philadelphia.cbslocal.com)
- Andrew Bynum Will Probably Never Play A Game As A Sixer (deadspin.com)
- Commentary: If the 76ers want to keep Bynum, he may not want to stay (miamiherald.com)