PHILADELPHIA— You point to certain games when you first see the schedule. Games vs. teams with the stars… Games vs. teams that generally bring out the best in you, no matter what the records are….Games where you figure it’s a good chance to measure how you stack up among the elite.
Games like the Sixers and Lakers here last night; Kobe Bryant’s annual trip to his old stomping grounds—well sort of, since he actually grew up some 10 miles away in Lower Merion. A chance to see what Dwight Howard looks like in the purple and gold. And of course, Andrew Bynum’s first game against his old team.
Funny how things don’t quite work out the way you’d expect.
At one end of the court Bynum sat at the end of Doug Collins bench in a dark sports jacket sans tie, with Philadelphia’s newest star Jrue Holiday also playing spectator due to a sprained foot. At the other end, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, expected to be integral pieces in the Lakers’ championship drive, watched Kobe, Howard & Co. do battle.
Back in the preseason if you had injected Collins with truth serum and told him his club would be 2 1/2 games better than Kobe’s gang going into this game, he would’ve asked “Where do I sign?”
“I’d have guessed we’d be about 19-5,’’ conceded Collins prior to watching Kobe go off for 34 points while the Lakers drained 14 3-pointers in coasting to a 111-98 win, “and they’d be around 17 and something.’’
Would you believe Philadelphia came in 12-11 to L.A’s woeful 10-14, the Lake Show currently bound for the lottery rather than preparing to be fitted for rings?
Much has already been written and more is certain to follow about the plight of what has suddenly become the second- best team in Hollywood to the Clippers.
But what of the Sixers?
When we last we left they them were trumpeting the acquisition of Bynum in that four-team trade that landed Howard in L.A. and Andre Iguodala in Denver, convinced it was a groundbreaking moment.
Remember how thousands rimmed the second floor of the Constitution Center for his initial press conference, roaring with approval at his every word.
Tell them then how this would play out; that Bynum, who played all but two games of last season’s condensed schedule once he returned from suspension for clocking Dallas’ J.J. Barea in the 2011 playoffs, would be a ghost until now… that point guard Holiday and third year man Evan Turner would start to blossom now that they were out from under Iguodala’s shadow. And that despite being so physically undermanned, Collins would somehow maneuver his club to the .500 mark, even while losing home games to the Pistons, Timberwolves and Bulls.