“I feel for him,’’ said Kobe, after the Lakers put together a winning streak for the first time in nearly a month. “It’s always tough when you get all those injuries, because a lot is beyond his control.
“He just has to remain patient. You guys really have a gem there. He’s a special player at both ends of the floor. When he gets back and he’s healthy he’s really gonna make a huge difference.’’
Disgruntled Sixers fans, visions of past trade busts Jeff Ruland, Derrick Coleman and Chris Webber dancing in their heads, will have to take his word for it. All they’ve seen of Bynum is the big guy who shows up in nice duds with weird hair styles, last night’s perm an all-timer.
Yes, the Sixers knew there were risks when they pulled the trigger on the deal back in August. But in their worst nightmares they never could’ve foreseen this.
Back then it wasn’t hard at all to visualize Bynum as the lynchpin to the greatest hoops success in Philadelphia since MVP Allen Iverson carried Larry Brown’s 2001 team to the NBA Finals. They constructed a team that would mesh perfectly around Bynum’s skills—with an array of shooters designed to make teams pay for doubling on the big man in the post, while Holiday and Turner would take turns picking them apart
The defense would be even more formidable with Bynum ruling the paint. Already a stellar defensive team which had been anchored by Iguodala, now the Sixers would have the size and inside strength to go with their athleticism and speed. And on the boards, with Bynum, Lavoy Allen, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia would be a team relentlessly pounding the glass.
So much for what might’ve been, though perhaps it could still be if you listen to Bryant. “He really grew in terms of being able to make the skip pass to the open man in the corner and read the defense well,’’ explained Kobe, who instead has a big man in Howard who’s probably more dominant overall but has a more limited offensive repertoire than Bynum. “He worked to improve his game and worked extremely hard.
“He worked on his jump shot. When he first came into the league he always had a good touch, but didn’t have the confidence to shoot it. He developed himself into a good mid-range shooter.’’
If you say so.
Bynum is scheduled to have his balky knees checked Thursday, hoping perhaps then he’ll get the go-ahead to start seriously training. Then it would likely take at least a few weeks until he could consider stepping on the court.
By that time, though, the Sixers could be in serious trouble. Having dropped six of their last eight to tumble to .500, now’s when things could get nasty. Beginning with the annual Texas two-step, tomorrow in Dallas and Wednesday in Houston, Philadelphia plays 10 of its next 11 games on the road.
Among them is the traditional deadly holiday Western swing, with stops in Memphis, Portland, the Lakers, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Under the best of circumstances that kind of trip could bury a good team. These are certainly not the best of circumstances.
But Doug Collins says his team will show up each night and give it their best shot. He says no one really cares who plays—or doesn’t play. “At the end of this year there will be no asterisk on who played in this game,’’ said Collins, who’s been around the NBA long enough to know things seldom turn out the way you think they will. “It’s gonna be did you win or did you lose?
“That’s what I learned a long time ago.’’
In other words, with Andrew Bynum or without him, the Philadelphia 76ers will push on. Their season, once filled with such promise, now seems destined to fall far short of that. Their future, tied to Bynum’s impending free agency, remains as uncertain as ever, as shaky as the condition of their ailing big man’s knees.
Just as that first glance at the schedule can be deceiving, so too can be trying to comprehend the big picture when all you have is a snapshot.
All they can do for now though, is cross their fingers and hope eventually it comes into focus.
Jon Marks has covered the Philadelphia 76ers from the days of Dr. J and his teammate, Joe Bryant (best known as Kobe’s dad). He has won awards from the Pro Basketball Writer’s Association and North Jersey Press Club. His other claim to fame is driving Rick Mahorn to a playoff game after missing the team bus. Follow him on Twitter.