76ers

A broken man, Bynum returns to plethora of boos

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A broken man, Bynum returns to plethora of boos

When Andrew Bynum finally took the court in Philadelphia, he was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey.

It did not work out here for Bynum. Not in any regard. That much is plain and indisputable. He was paid nearly $16 million while he rehabbed his knees, which were bad before he got to Philly and remained bad after he left. Most of the memories involving Bynum over the last year center on the bizarre -- the bowling incident, the various and questionable hairstyles, the Zapruder-style film of him dancing in Spain.

No one seemed all that upset when the Sixers divorced themselves from the uncomfortable union. Some of the same people who cheered when the Sixers introduced him at the now-infamous public press conference/party were all too happy to open the door and push him through it during the offseason. Not that Bynum minded. He’s not the emotional sort -- or at least he never outwardly displayed his feelings. That remains true.

“It's another game for me,” Bynum said after the Sixers beat the Cavs, 94-79, at the Wells Fargo Center.

The day before Cleveland played the Sixers, the Cavs practiced at Temple. When Bynum was asked about what sort of reception he anticipated, he offered a typical reply.

“I honestly don’t really care,” Bynum said. “I don’t know how they treated me. I was hurt. It is what it is. I’m still hurt. But I’m trying.”

The interview went on like that for a while, Bynum saying he doesn’t care and everyone nodding and knowing it to be true. He said the fans here are “great” and showed him a lot of love, and then he added -- in a voice so soft it was almost a whisper -- “I don’t have any animosity or anything.”

He doesn’t. They do.

Bynum was booed when he came out of the locker room to join the Cavs in the pregame layup line. He was booed while he sat on the bench and watched the proceedings following tipoff. He was booed when he got up and went over to the scorer’s table to check into the game with 3:38 left in the first quarter. He was booed when he touched the ball, booed when he rebounded the ball, booed when he blocked Lavoy Allen.

He was booed. A lot and loudly.

“It was kind of funny,” Bynum said. “It was funny. I was smiling the entire time. It was funny … It was funny to me. I don't know what else I can say about it.”

It should be noted that the crowd did not boo a great player. They booed a broken man, a man fractured mentally and physically, a man who’s all too willing to cop to his pronounced deficiencies.

“It is still career-threatening,” Bynum said about his knees. “I am a shell of myself on the court right now. I am struggling mentally, but I am trying.”

Bynum dunked in Milwaukee the other night. It was the first time he’d done so in a regular-season game in a long while. He said he felt “sharp pain” when he did it.

He entered Friday’s game averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in just under 13 minutes. He is 26 years old, but he seems decades removed from being the player who averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 35.2 minutes per game just two seasons ago.

Against the Sixers on Friday, he played 18 minutes -- a season high. He finished with four points, five rebounds, one assist and one block.

A shell of himself. That seems right.

“I feel like I can still be a double-double guy in this league,” Bynum said, “but it’s going to take some modifications to my game and whether or not I want to accept the challenge and do that.” 

You get the sense that he’s not into challenges these days. Bynum said he’s been frustrated by his health and he’s struggled to “find the joy” in playing. Before too long, he might give up the search and go off and hunt for satisfaction in some other form.

More than once, he has considered retiring. 

“It was a thought,” Bynum admitted. “It was a serious thought. It still is. At the moment, it’s tough to enjoy the game because of how limited I am physically.”

How often does he think about it these days?

“Every now and again,” Bynum said.

One day, maybe soon, Bynum will walk away from the game. Slowly. Gingerly. But when he does, he won’t leave as a dominant paint player. He will depart as a man whose knees quit on him right before his desire did.

Sixers let game slip away in second half against Celtics

Sixers let game slip away in second half against Celtics

BOX SCORE

The box score shows an imbalanced fourth quarter when the Sixers were outscored 33-20 by the Celtics. 

The play-by-play breakdown demonstrates the Celtics breaking an 84-84 tie with seven minutes remaining to end the game on an 18-8 run. 

The stat line tells the story of the Sixers giving up seven points to Kyrie Irving in less than four minutes to close out the game. 

That’s how the Celtics took over the Sixers home opener. The Sixers felt the game slip away earlier than that. 

“We struggled in the third to continue what we had going,” Jerryd Bayless said. “We didn’t hold everything together like we should have.”

The Sixers led the Celtics 50-46 at halftime. JJ Redick had matched Irving’s 12 points and the Sixers had only given up four points off turnovers, a needed improvement from their first game. 

They jumped ahead by nine, 65-56, with 4:35 to play in the third. That’s when they noticed the change. The Sixers went scoreless for a two-minute stretch. The Celtics failed to hit a field goal during that stretch (0 for 4), but they scored six points off free throws. The Sixers didn’t take advantage of the Celtics' shooting skid; instead, they hit one, too (0 for 3 from the field, three turnovers). 

“That was our chance to build that lead,” Redick said. “We were getting stops and we couldn’t get anything going offensively. It seemed like we were stuck at 65 for what seemed like forever. It was a seven-point game and we were getting stops and we never could push it past that, and it ended up being a three-point game to start the fourth. That was for sure when the momentum started shifting.”

The Sixers shot 39.1 percent from the field in the fourth while the Celtics were an efficient 64.7 percent. The Sixers fell flat from long range (1 for 6) and took just two free throws. The Celtics, meanwhile, scored 12 points from three (4 for 8) and went 7 for 7 at the line. In addition to Irving's offensive burst, Al Horford and Shane Larkin combined for 17 points in the quarter. 

“My mind goes to stops and not fouling,” Brett Brown said. “I think we fouled too much.” 

This loss emphasizes the importance of holding onto a lead when it’s in the Sixers' grasp instead of having to play catch up. Not when their roster is newly constructed and they are looking to young players down the stretch. Not when they are facing a a player like Irving who can take over at will, especially when he sees a window of opportunity. 

“Come on, that’s winning time,” Irving said of the fourth. 

Celtics 102, Sixers 92: Studs, duds, turning point and more

Celtics 102, Sixers 92: Studs, duds, turning point and more

BOX SCORE

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame won’t be putting in a call for the film of this one.

The Sixers’ home opener Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center was sloppy and foul-filled. At times, it was downright ugly.

Basically, it was Sixers-Celtics.

In the end, the Sixers didn’t have enough down the stretch of a 102-92 loss (see observations).

There was plenty to take away from the defeat as the team heads into the second half of its first back-to-back of the season.

Turning point
The Sixers took a three-point advantage into the fourth quarter. And while their offense went cold, their defense completely collapsed.

The Sixers gave up 33 points in the final frame, a high for both teams in any quarter during the game.

Key stat
Bickering with the refs didn't help the Sixers' cause on the stat sheet.

They committed 31 personal fouls compared to 24 by the Celtics. That also helped fuel the free throw disparity. The Sixers made 12 of 16 FTs, while the C's connected on 22 of 32 from the charity stripe.

Offensive stud
It’s amazing what having real shooters can do for a team. Redick and Jerryd Bayless proved that again Friday night.

The pair of veteran guards helped keep the Sixers afloat when things weren’t looking great for the squad early and kept on contributing to the final buzzer.

Overall, Redick and Bayless combined for 37 points and eight three-pointers.

Offensive dud
Joel Embiid won’t find his name here often, but the big fella was far from his usual self against the Celtics. 

Embiid shot just 4 for 16 (0 for 6 from three-point range) for 11 points. He added 14 boards to secure a double-double, but it didn't help on the scoreboard.

For a guy lobbying hard to play in back-to-back sets, he sure looked tired.

Defensive stud
You can make an argument Irving is the best offensive point guard in the entire NBA. That’s why what T.J. McConnell did was so impressive.

When matched up with Irving, McConnell got right into the All-Star’s chest and didn’t back down. He’s a big reason Irving shot 7 for 17 and committed five turnovers.

Defensive dud
Not that it’s his fault, but Dario Saric struggled severely when matched up against opposing centers Al Horford and Aron Baynes. 

Brett Brown wants to run Saric at the five at times with the second unit, but it hasn’t yielded much success so far through two games. (Jahlil Okafor, anyone?)

Injuries
The Sixers made it through a second consecutive game without any injuries. Keep those fingers crossed.

Courtside celebs
Sixer staples rapper Meek Mill and filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan were both in attendance. The latter was seated next to legendary actor Samuel L. Jackson.

Up next
The Sixers don’t have any time to dwell on this one as they head straight for a matchup with another 2016-17 playoff team in the Toronto Raptors Saturday night (7:30 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia).