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).