The last time the Philadelphia 76ers went to the NBA Finals they had a dominant big man in the middle. In 2001, the Sixers played the Los Angeles Lakers for the league championship. The center was Dikembe Mutombo at the time. Mutombo, a 7-foot-2, 245-pounder, averaged 10.0 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game that season.
He was also the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Mutombo was a force in the middle. He wasn’t a big time scorer, but a great shotblocker and rebounder. Well, the Sixers acquired all-star center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four team blockbuster trade this summer and Mutombo feels Bynum should be able to do great things for the Sixers.
“I’m so happy with the trade,” said Mutombo, who was recently in town to participate in the Liberty Medal presentation to boxing legend Muhammad Ali at the National Constitution Center. “Bynum is a young man with full talent ahead of him. He’s a great offensive rebounder and shotblocker. I think his offensive skills are much higher than me when I was at his age.
“I think he has a great future. I just pray that he has a healthy season and that he can give the Philly fans something they’ve looking for. They’re looking for another big man who can block shots. I think they got him. He’s a big steal for them.”
Bynum, a 7-foot, 285-pounder, was originally picked by the Lakers with the 10th pick overall in the 2005 NBA draft. He played his scholastic basketball at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, N.J. The 24 year-old standout averaged career highs of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds a game. He was rated 20th in the NBA in scoring, third in rebounding, sixth in blocks (1.93) and fourth in field goal percentage. He joins Dwight Howard who now plays for the Lakers as the only players who tallied at 10 points, 10 rebounds and 1.50 blocks last season.
“I had a chance to spend a couple weeks with Adam Aron [Sixers CEO and co-owner],” Mutombo said. “I told him this is going to be big for them.”
Jason Richardson, Philadelphia 76ers new shooting guard who came over in the four-team blockbuster deal that brought center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers, knows what it’s like to play with an all-star center. Richardson played with Dwight Howard in Orlando for the last two seasons.
Now, he’s looking forward to playing with another big-time player in Bynum. Richardson knows the importance of a dominant big man.
“Andrew is a great player,” Richardson said. “He’s one of the best centers in the game right now. He’s only 24 years old. So, he definitely has some room to improve. He’s not even in his prime yet.”
Richardson, 6-foot-6, 225-pounder, brings the Sixers a lot of experience as well as a great outside shooter. He averaged 11.6 points a game last season. He shot 36.8 percent from three-point range. He connected on 40.8 percent from the field overall. Perimeter shooting was a big weakness for the Sixers. That’s one of the most improved areas with the addition of Richardson, Nick Young and Dorell Wright.
Richardson, 31, believes the Sixers have a good nucleus coming back. He was impressed with the team’s accomplishments last season.
“They have a good young team and that’s an attest to Doug Collins [Sixers head coach] with what he’s done with the team,” Richardson said. “Thaddeus Young is one of the most athletic power forwards in the league. Jrue Holiday has played well. He’s one of the best point guards in the league. We’re just excited about this year.”
Richardson was originally the fifth overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in the 2001 NBA draft. He has appeared in 805 games with 794 starts, averaging 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.17 steals in 34.6 minutes a game while shooting 44.1 percent from the floor and 37.2 percent from three-point range.
During the 2004-05 season, Richardson hit the second most three pointers of any player in the league (1,238), trailing only Miami’s Ray Allen (1,441), who was playing for the Boston Celtics. Richardson hit a career-high 243 three-pointers for Charlotte in 2007-08, the fourth-most by any player in a single season.
Richardson knows his role. His shooting talent could help the Sixers go a long way.
“I’m going to be aggressive,” he said. “I’m going to play hard and do whatever I can to help the team win games.”
Andrew Bynum has given the Philadelphia 76ers somebody this organization hasn’t had in a long time. And that’s a dominant big man at both ends of the floor. Of course, the Sixers had Dikembe Mutombo when they made their run to the 2001 NBA Finals. But Mutombo was mostly a presence at the defensive end of the court.
The most renowned Sixers big men were Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone. Chamberlain led the 1966–67 Sixers to an NBA championship. Malone guided the 1982–83 Sixers to a league title. Nobody is making any comparisons among the three players or even Mutombo. Nevertheless, when the Sixers have been a force, they usually have had a big time player around the basket. Now Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, has that luxury with Bynum in the paint.
“Obviously, we’ve become a power team,” Collins said. “We went from an under-sized team two years ago. I think our finishing team had Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young on the frontline. Now, you look we got Andrew, Spencer (Hawes), Kwame (Brown), Lavoy (Allen), Thad (Young) and (Arnett) Moultrie. We got such a big line-up.”
Bynum will be the driving force behind the Sixers power game. He also opens things up for the perimeter players such as small forward Dorell Wright, and guards Nick Young, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and the newly acquired Jason Richardson. When the defense collapses, he can kick the ball back out for what should be an easy outside shot from one of the guards or small forwards.
“The good part about it is we’ve added shooting,” Collins said. “If you go back to the day we met after our last game, we said we wanted to get bigger, more athletic on the frontline and we wanted to get more shooting. You draft for talent and you trade for need. When you get some good players, especially a team that wants to rebuild, you got a chance for things to happen.”
The Sixers made a big impression with the fans earlier this week during a public press conference for Bynum and Richardson. Both players came to the Sixers as a part of a four-team trade involving Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic. 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. The Lakers received all-star center Dwight Howard from Orlando.
Bynum, a 7-foot, 285-pounder, was originally selected by the Lakers with the 10th overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft out of St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, N.J. This past season, he averaged career-highs of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds a game and was selected as a starter for the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star Game. Bynum, 24, was very impressed with the welcome and the enthusiasm from the fans.
“Hopefully, they can match my energy and keep it going,” Bynum said. “They came out in a big way to support us. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this and to be honest I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like when we get a sold out arena.”
Bynum grew up in Plainsboro, N.J., just beyond Princeton. He’s expecting to have a lot of fans at the Wells Fargo Center. Bynum has a chance to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. But he had some great things to say during the press conference, which excited the fans.
“My first experience here’s been so great,” Bynum said. “I’m really leaning toward making this my home.”
The Sixers finished the shortened NBA season with a 35-31 record. They defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Sixers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in seven games in a tough Eastern Conference semifinal matchup. Bynum sees a lot of potential with his new team.
“I looked over the roster,” Bynum said. “I said, ‘They’re actually pretty deep.’ They lit us up the last time they played us. I know they have skills. I know Spencer (Hawes). I know Kwame. I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the guys.”
Bynum will be heading to Germany to undergo an experimental procedure on his knee in September. This procedure doesn’t require surgery. Bynum is expected back in time for training camp, which starts October 2. In the meantime, Collins believes next month to be really important for his players.
“I think everybody is going to be committed,” Collins said. “We’re going to try to get guys in after Labor Day and get them to start working out with one another. We have some guys coming back we’ll be counting on to be leaders. You have Jrue, Evan, Thad and Spencer who have been around a little bit. I want them to be vocal about how we do things.
“I think all these guys will want to be committed. They’re all really good players. We’re going to hit the ground running. It’s going to be a little different. We know everybody. We got off to a great start (last year). Every day in practice is going to be important.”
NOTE: Bynum has won two NBA championships with the Lakers (2009, 2010). Last season, he ranked 20th in the league in scoring, third in rebounding, sixth in blocks (1.93) and fourth in field goal percentage (55.8 percent).
The game of basketball should be played where the ball goes inside and then comes out. You need a big man around the basket to make this happen, a player who can score, rebound and close down the lane defensively.
Andrew Bynum can do all those things.
The Philadelphia 76ers have acquired Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team blockbuster trade. The Sixers also received shooting guard Jason Richardson. In the process, the Sixers traded All-Star guard and Olympian Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets, Nikola Vucevic to the Orlando Magic and Maurice “Moe” Harkless, this year’s first round draft pick, to the Magic.
The Lakers received a huge package in all-star center Dwight Howard and Orlando got Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington from Denver, and one protected first round selection from each of the three teams involved with the deal.
The Sixers will miss Iguodala’s spectacular play in the open court and his defense. Ironically, Iguodala’s debut as a Nugget will be against the Sixers on Oct. 31 in Philadelphia for the team’s home opener.
However, they now have Bynum, a 7-foot, 280-pounder who is one of the top players in the NBA. With Howard now in the West, Bynum immediately becomes the best big man in the East. Bynum, who grew up in Plainsboro, N.J., is only 24 years old after entering the NBA right out of high school as the 10th pick of the Lakers in 2005. He was a McDonald’s All-American when he played at St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, N.J.
He has already won two NBA championships (2009, 2010) with the Lakers. He made the all-star team for the first time last season, averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds a game while leading the Lakers to playoffs.
The Sixers defeated the Lakers on Feb. 2 in Philadelphia, 95-90. But Bynum was terrific in that contest, tallying 20 points, 20 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 assists. The Sixers should revolve their offense around him. Obviously, teams will collapse on him inside, but that’s exactly what you want. This way he can kick the ball back out to players like Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Jason Richardson for easy shots on the perimeter.
Philly should be able to climb the ladder in the Eastern Conference with him. Miami won the NBA championship in the spring. But the Sixers just got a whole lot closer with Bynum in the middle.
The Sixers finished in the eighth spot in the conference. They defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs with Chicago missing two of its top players for most of the series in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. The Sixers were very impressive in the Eastern Conference semifinals too, losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games.
Bynum could take them to the next level. After Miami, you have the Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and the Brooklyn Nets as the teams to watch. The Sixers are right there.
There aren’t a lot of dominant centers in the NBA today. The Sixers have one of them. Philly’s best teams have been the ones with outstanding centers. In 1966–67, the Sixers won the NBA championship with Wilt Chamberlain in the middle. In 1982–83, the team had center Moses Malone, which helped it capture an NBA title.
Bynum has already won two NBA crowns. He played with some great players such as Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and others. Nevertheless, he knows how to win and that should really help the Sixers.
Of course Bynum is in the final year of his contract and will be looking for a big deal. The Sixers could offer him a reported $100 million over five years. The Sixers should have a good chance to re-sign him.
He’s worth the investment.
Magic Johnson has watched Andrew Bynum play a lot of basketball during his years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson, former Lakers star and Hall of Famer, knows that the Sixers biggest offseason acquisition will play a major part in how far the team goes this season.
Of course, Bynum has missed the entire preseason with right knee pain from a bone bruise. The 7-foot, 285-pound center, could miss the season opener on Oct. 31 against the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center. Nevertheless, Johnson seems to be pretty knowledgeable about his basketball skills.
“Well, the good thing is I don’t have doubts in his ability,” said Johnson, a basketball analyst for ESPN’s NBA Countdown. “I’ve seen Andrew dominate. I saw the game against San Antonio where he went and grabbed 30 rebounds. Andrew Bynum is our – right with Dwight Howard, talented –second talented most big man in the game today. And offensively he probably got—he’s got more moves than Dwight Howard. Andrew Bynum can play basketball.
“The problem with Andrew is when he gets down or when he has a confrontation with a coach or if he’s not feeling good about a teammate, then he lets that come to the court instead of leaving that in the locker room. He then goes out and gets five rebounds or he plays and is 10 and 5 or he pouts, and it not only hurts his teammates. So is he mature enough to handle the fact that now it is his team, he is the man. When it’s not going good, will he still come and play 150 percent?
“And then last but not least, will he be able to make his teammates better, because Andrew Bynum got all the talent in the world, and when he wants to dominate, he dominates; we’ve seen that. Shoot, every year he goes through a stretch of about I would say 10 to 15 games where he just dominates the league. I mean, it’s unbelievable the numbers that he puts up.
“But then after he reverts back to a guy we scratch our head about. So I’m just hoping that he just plays for 82 games, also stays healthy for 82 games, too, because he hasn’t been healthy every season that we’ve had him here in LA. But when he comes to play, he can play.”
Johnson is impressed with the Sixers offseason moves. He also likes Sixers guard Jrue Holiday and believes shooting guard Evan Turner should be more relaxed this season.
“Now, I think they did a wonderful job because Jason Richardson has been on fire,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen him three times in exhibition, and I think he’s going to be great. Jrue Holiday is just an incredible point guard who’s getting better and better every season. I thought the addition of Nick Young, Dorell Wright, shooters, so when Bynum is in there you can put a lot of great shooters around him.
“And so I think that Evan Turner now will have less pressure on him. It looked like he was forcing — he was trying to be a high draft pick instead of just relaxing and playing basketball, he was pressuring and he was playing under pressure.”
Johnson feels Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, will have to work with Bynum. He also believes Collins brings a lot of qualities, which should make the Sixers an even better team.
“Doug Collins, who I love and respect, is a great coach,” Johnson said. “And Bynum and Collins got to get on the same page. That’s another thing that has to happen for them to really excel.
“But I’m excited about the team. Athletic-wise they’re off the charts. They’re going to play defense because Doug Collins is about defense, and they’re going to play together, and so that’s — I see great things for them now but also in the future.”
It’s been a huge year for a number of athletes and teams in the sports world. There have also been some interesting trades and noteworthy accomplishments. The athletes will certainly be remembered for all the great things they did in a year where there were so many outstanding ones.
The team accomplishments as well as the important sports stories will have their special place, too. It’s always a difficult task to select 10 special moments in a calendar year where there were so many. Nevertheless, here’s a look at 10 notable sports occurrences from the region and beyond in 2012.
Andrew Bynum/Dwight Howard – The biggest trade in professional sports involved two of the NBA’s best centers in big men Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard. The Sixers acquired the 7-foot, 285-pound all-star center for the Los Angeles Lakers and shooting guard Jason Richardson from the Orlando Magic. The Sixers also sent center Nik Vucevic and rookie Maurice Harkless to the Magic with a protected first round pick.
Howard was dealt to the Lakers. The 6-foot-11, 265-pound center, entered last weekend averaging 17.8 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks a game. Bynum has yet to play for the Sixers. He has been nursing bone bruises in both knees. The latest report from Bynum is his knees are healing. The fans are hoping to see him on the court in 2013.
Gabby Douglas – Douglas was the darling of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She won the all-around gymnastics gold medal and was the first African American to win the all-around gold medal at the Olympics. Douglas was also named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.
LeBron James – It was a breakthrough year for James as he led the Miami Heat to the NBA championship last season. After losing to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 for the league title, he bounced back guiding the Heat to an impressive run in the playoffs defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. During the summer, he helped the U.S. Olympic Basketball team win the gold medal. He was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.
Penn State Football – In spite of the widely publicized sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, Penn State football turned in a very impressive season. Bill O’Brien, Nittany Lions head coach, led Penn State to an overall 8-4 record and a 6-2 Big Ten mark in his first season. O’Brien was named the ESPN and Maxwell Club Coach of the Year.
Kobe Bryant – Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to score 30,000 points. Bryant is just 34 years old. He joins some real basketball legends such as Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
Usain Bolt – Bolt ran away from everybody at the Olympics. The Jamaican sprinter won gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters. Bolt set a new Olympic record in the 100 meters. He ran a 9.63 in that event. In the 200 meters, he clocked a 19.3 in that race. He also led the Jamaican 4x100 meter relay team to a new world record of 36.84. He has been one of the most dominant Olympic athletes in the past two summer games. Bolt is regarded as the fastest man in the world.
New Orleans Saints – The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal was one of the biggest NFL stories of the year. It was a lot of back and forth in terms of the player’s involvement in this situation. Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, put former commissioner Paul Tagliabue in charge of what punishment should be handed out. Tagliabue determined that no players from the Saints would be suspended for their actions. Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire NFL season.
Robert Griffin III – Griffin has become a huge star in the NFL as a rookie. The Washington Redskins quarterback is a major candidate for rookie of the year honors. He has completely turned the Redskins around this season with his brilliant play. The downside for Eagles fan is Griffin appears to be a mainstay in the NFC East for many years to come.
Local High School Basketball – The best high school basketball in the state of Pennsylvania was played in the Philadelphia area with Chester, Neumann-Goretti, Imhotep Charter and Constitution high schools winning PIAA state championships.
Miguel Cabrera – Cabrera, Detroit Tigers third baseman, became the first player to win the Triple Crown in Major League Baseball since 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski captured this honor. Cabrera was named Most Valuable Player in the American League. He led the league with a .330 batting average while hitting 44 home runs and driving in 139 RBIs. He also led his team to a World Series appearance, where it was swept by San Francisco.
If and when Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum plays this season, Jalen Rose feels the Sixers, who are a playoff team without him, could go to the next level. Of course, Bynum hasn’t played or practiced since the Sixers got him in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers last summer.
Bynum has been recovering from a bone bruise in his right knee. He also injured his left knee bowling. The Sixers big man is expected to have his knees examined on Dec. 20. Nevertheless, Rose, an NBA analyst for ESPN, feels Bynum could make them a strong contender in the playoffs when and if he debuts as a Sixer.
“Doug Collins (Sixers head coach) has done a terrific job with that team. Who would have thought they would be a couple games above .500 while the Lakers and their roster are a couple games below,” Rose said. “I think once they get Andrew Bynum back and he’s healthy and playing at a high level and gets back on the floor, I look at the Philadelphia 76ers with the development of Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday and the bigs (big men) they have to play around Bynum.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they have what it takes to advance to the playoffs. The Miami Heat are the favorites obviously to win the East. The New York Knicks have put themselves in that conversation. [With] Indiana, you still have to see what happens with (Danny) Granger, and the (Brooklyn) Nets, you have to see if they’re going to stay healthy. So all the time I felt Philadelphia was in the mix with that second tier.”
Bynum, 25, hasn’t played a game since last May. The 7-foot, 285-pounder, averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds a game last season. He’s an NBA all-star who has helped the Lakers win two NBA championships. Rose envisions a slight adjustment period for Bynum in terms of getting into playing shape.
“The conditioning may not be there initially,” Rose said. “That probably will take two to four weeks. But as far as getting him on that left block and allowing him to operate and be a 20-point scorer, I think that will come initially as soon as he gets backs out on the floor.”
In regard to when Bynum will play, it’s not clear. It appears that Bynum and the Sixers should know a lot more about his knee injuries in the coming weeks. Bynum is in the last year of his contract and reportedly could sign a five-year deal for more than $100 million after this season.
“Well, he basically said recently he’s going to know something between and around the first of the year when he feels like he’s going to come back,” Rose said. “He seems eager to come back, the sooner the better. We all know he’s in a contract year. He wants to play at a high level. I mean for his future it will be a great time for him to come out and be an anchor for what Philadelphia is trying to build since they’re starting to build the roster around him.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Nick Young casually walked onto the court after the buzzer sounded as Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins made his substitution. Shortly after that, Young, Sixers’ 6-foot-7 guard, was spotting up on the wing for one of his long range shots. The next thing you knew he was knocking down shots with ease.
He’s a shooter with a feathery touch from the outside. It’s only the preseason, but Young has been nothing short of fantastic. It’s not hard to figure out what kind of role he will play for the Sixers this season.
“I’m going to do my best to score and play defense,” he said. “I just want to get out there and do what I do. My coaches, staff and teammates have been making me comfortable out there on the court. That’s one thing a player needs to be, is comfortable.”
Young has always been comfortable shooting the basketball. That goes all the way back to his days growing up in Los Angeles. He was a great college player at the University of Southern California. As a junior, he ranked second in the Pac-10 in scoring with a 17.5 average. He shot 52.5 percent from the field and was second in three-point percentage at 44.4.
He was an early entry in the NBA draft. He was selected by Washington with the 15th pick overall in the 2007 draft. He spent four seasons with the Wizards before they traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers as a part of a three-team trade last season. Two years ago, he averaged 17.4 points a game for the Wizards. He tallied a combined total of 14.2 points a game between the two teams.
Young also helped the Clippers land a spot in the NBA playoffs. When Lou Williams signed with the Atlanta Hawks last summer, the Sixers needed some more firepower off the bench. So they signed Young as a free agent. Collins wants to take advantage of his scoring ability.
“The big thing for me now is how to get him shots,” Collins said. “That’s my job, to figure out the scheme of things and how to get him shots. We can’t let him be out there on the floor four or five minutes without getting him shots.
“If he’s on the floor, he’s got to be a guy who puts points on the board for us. It’s me getting acclimated. We knew what Lou [wanted] and how he was going to get shots. Lou had a little bit more speed. With Nick, he wants to catch the ball in a certain area and get his own [shots]. I want to make it easier for him. I don’t want to have to have him work so hard to get his own shot.”
So far, Young is averaging 16 points a game in the preseason. He’s shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 47.8 from three-point range. He was excited when the Sixers completed a blockbuster trade for all-star center Andrew Bynum.
“You know, once I heard I really didn’t believe it,” Young said. “I came over at the right time. I’m just trying to get warmed up for the season. I’m doing a lot of conditioning. I’m getting my legs in shape.”
The Sixers open their season on Oct. 31 against the Denver Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center.
If the Philadelphia 76ers are going to make the playoffs, the team has a lot of work to do after the NBA All-Star break. The Sixers’ latest loss to the Milwaukee Bucks was critically damaging in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Bucks (26-25) are in the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. With the Sixers dropping a 94-92 decision to the Bucks on Wednesday, they have now fallen four games back. In addition, Milwaukee has beaten the Sixers three times this season, holding the tie-breaker with one game remaining between the teams.
The Sixers have 31 games left in the season. After the All-Star break, the schedule isn’t very kind either. The team faces the Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors. With the exception of the Magic and the Timberwolves, all these teams are headed to the playoffs and the Heat are the NBA champions with LeBron James, who will probably win the league’s Most Valuable Player award again this season.
Moreover, the Sixers have just 12 games left at home. So, they’re going to have to play their best basketball on the road. And that’s not easy at this time of the year, when a lot of teams are jockeying for playoff position.
Doug Collins, Sixers’ head coach, will have to find a way to get his team on a serious playoff run. Collins has quite the task in front of him. Of course, everybody has been waiting for 7-foot center Andrew Bynum to play. Bynum has been plagued with bilateral knee bone bruises. He has given various updates on the condition of his knees, but still doesn’t seem to know when he will debut this season.
At this point, the Sixers can’t count on Bynum. Even if he comes back and plays, it’s going to take him a while to get into playing shape. He hasn’t played a game since last spring, when the Los Angeles Lakers were in the playoffs. Jason Richardson, Sixers’ shooting guard, will miss the rest of the season after left knee surgery. Richardson, a veteran and good outside shooter, averaged 10.5 points a game. The Sixers are also playing without small forward Thaddeus Young, who has been rehabbing a left hamstring injury. Young has missed four games. Prior to the injury, Young was having a great season averaging 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.
Young has been the team’s most consistent player this season, and getting him back healthy will be a big lift.
Jrue Holiday, who will be heading to Houston this weekend for his first NBA all-star appearance, will have to step up even more after the break. Holiday is averaging 17.8 points and 8.9 assists a game. He’s going to have to limit his turnovers and provide some additional leadership in the backcourt. Evan Turner, Sixers’ small forward, is averaging 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds a game, but Turner is going to have to do more, particularly if Holiday hits a flat spot. Nick Young has to continue to provide some much needed outside shooting. Young is averaging 11.5 points a game and certainly has had some big moments.
The most work needs to come from the frontcourt with Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen. Hawes is averaging 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. Allen is tallying 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. The numbers aren’t a big thing with them. But they have to do a better job of coming up with loose balls and key rebounds. Too many second and third shots have hurt the Sixers.
Overall, defense has been lacking. That’s one thing Collins could always count on last year. Obviously, Andre Iguodala was a big part of that. Iguodala is one of the best defensive players in the league. That’s why the Denver Nuggets will be a team to contend with in the playoffs. But the Sixers need to come with stops first. If they can get some steals and force some turnovers that will improve their scoring.
The Sixers need to get off to a good start, to say the least. They can’t afford a losing streak now.
Andrew Bynum had an adoring public in front of him and beaming management on stage to his right.
The Philadelphia 76ers had thrown open the doors of a press conference to the public and hundreds of fans, longing for a reason to get excited again, came to chant the name of their new superstar. Eager to win over his new supporters, Bynum worked the faithful into a frenzy. Without playing a game for the Sixers, he said he wanted to make Philadelphia his home — and the team was ready to commit.
"Where do I sign?" owner Joshua Harris said. "Show me the contract."
Harris should be glad now he didn't sign any deals in early August.
Those cheers for Bynum were the only ones the 7-foot center has heard 38 games into a season that has the Sixers spiraling from hopeful Atlantic Division contenders toward the NBA draft lottery. With Bynum, the Sixers expected to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Without him, the Sixers are lagging at 16-22 and entered Monday four games behind Boston for the final spot in the East.
The Sixers can't blame all their woes on missing Bynum.
But he sure would help.
"It's hard to say how it's affected us because we haven't played with him," forward Thaddeus Young said.
Bynum has sat out the season because of bone bruises on both his knees. Bynum, an All-Star last year with the Lakers, in on a six-step rehabilitation process that he hopes will get him back into lineup around the Feb. 15 All-Star break. He's worked weights into his rehab and started running on Monday.
He proclaimed his knees pain free.
"They're the best I've had in a long time, so they look really, really good to me," Bynum told reporters Monday after practice.
Again, Bynum had no true timetable for his return, though "around the All-Star break" was the first new range he suggested in weeks. Bynum's potential return date has been in flux since training camp. One day before practice was set to open, the Sixers announced Bynum would be shut down for three weeks as a precaution after he received knee treatment in Germany. Three weeks has turned into three months. He even injured his left knee while bowling.
He participated in shooting drills with assistant coaches Michael Curry and Brian James, as well as head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson on Monday. Bynum cautioned, though, that he still had plenty of rehabilitation left to complete.
"I'm not back. But I'm headed in that direction," he said. "It's all positive."
The 76ers good use a dose of good news. Their 10-6 start has twisted into a 6-16 stretch entering Tuesday's game against New Orleans. The Sixers hope Saturday's win over Houston to open a stretch of 12 home games in the next 13 can be the calming factor that stabilizes their season. Throw in Bynum's return, and the Sixers just might be able to still make a dent in the postseason.
Team president Rod Thorn and general manager Tony DiLeo would love to know Bynum's availability before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. If Bynum hasn't returned, or the Sixers are still scuffling, the front office could look to make more big trades to win down the road.
Bynum, who averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds last season, would be worth the wait if he matched those numbers.
"We've got Andrew Bynum, All-Star," Young said. "He's a great player and we're willing to wait on him each and every day. He's definitely a focal point of what we're trying to do. He's definitely, 'The guy.' I wouldn't rather have anybody else."
Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown haven't come close to filling Bynum's numbers at center. Allen has taken a big step back from his rookie season and is averaging only 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. Before their 107-100 win over Houston on Saturday, the Sixers ranked 27th in the NBA in scoring (92.2 points) and have regularly failed to even reach 90 points over the last six weeks. They scored more than 89 points for the first time in six games against the Rockets.
Not exactly what CEO Adam Aron expected when he touted at Bynum's arrival, "The Sixers are once again the talk of the town."
The Sixers have lost 13 of their last 17 games but a soft slate of games this week against New Orleans and Toronto could help turn that around.
The struggles haven't fractured the locker room under coach Doug Collins, and the tight unit has bounced back from swoons before.
"We're not going to splinter," Collins said, "not as long as I'm the coach."
DiLeo has repeatedly said he would make the Bynum trade again. What else would he say? Bynum is in the final year of his contract and would love nothing more to return to help the Sixers win and prove he's healthy enough to merit a $100-plus million deal in the summer.
Lost in the shuffle of the Sixers dumping Elton Brand, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala was their decision to send Nikola Vucevic to Orlando as part of the four-team Bynum trade. Vucevic fell out of Collins' rotation at the end of last season and played in only one of their 13 playoff games. The 7-footer is sixth in the NBA in rebounds (11.0) and is making only $1.76 million — scraps compared to the $16.75 million Bynum will earn this season.
Bynum is eligible for a five-year contract after July 1, once he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Sixers can offer Bynum more years and money than any other team. With good reason, they want to know what kind of Bynum is on the market: The L.A. All-Star or the Sixers' Sidelined Center. -- (AP)