76ers

Bynum returns to Philly 'a shell' of himself

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Bynum returns to Philly 'a shell' of himself

Andrew Bynum claims he will play Friday night when his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, play his former team, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Bynum was hardly a fan favorite last season when he came to town with great expectations and fanfare, and left having never played a game because of two bad knees.

“I got bad news with diagnosis on my knees, but I tried to get back endlessly,” Bynum said Thursday after the Cavaliers practiced at Temple University. “And the frustrating part was getting almost there and then to keep having setbacks.

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

Bynum tried last season, but things just never panned out for him in a Sixers uniform. Not that the big man is too upset about letting down the Philadelphia fans.

"I honestly don't really care," Bynum said. "I don't know how they will treat me. I was hurt. It is what it is, and I'm still hurt. But I'm still trying."

Bynum has played 51 minutes over four games for the Cavs so far this season and is averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Those statistics pale in comparison to his 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds he averaged when he was named an All-Star two seasons ago.

“In the moment it is tough to enjoy the game because of where I am but I am struggling to work through that,” Bynum said. “I feel like I can still be effective in this league but I am going to have to make changes to my game and it is about accepting those challenges.”

“As an organization we don’t want to rush it,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “We don’t have any expectations of him right now except for him to keep working and that is what he has been doing.”

Zero expectations: The exact opposite of what Bynum experienced when he joined the Sixers franchise. Keep in mind that the Sixers traded All-Star Andre Iguodala, second-year player Nik Vucevic (who had 30 points and 21 rebounds on Wednesday night against the Clippers), rookie Maurice Harkless and a future first-round pick.

Cleveland signed Bynum as a free agent and guaranteed him $6 million of a possible $16 million over two years.

One team put all their chips in and lost. The other gambled just a little.

Instead of being a centerpiece in Cleveland, Bynum is just another guy trying to play the backup center role.

“It’s been good,” Bynum said of his limited minutes. “Andy [Varejao] has been playing great, which is a great help to me and has allowed me to sit back and accept that role-playing responsibility in the moment. We all know if things were going bad there it would be painful, but I am happy he is playing well and I am going to keep trying to play.”

Varejao is averaging 10.2 points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes a night as the Cavs' starting center, leaving Bynum to to play between 15 and 19 minutes per game.

If Bynum can work through his mental struggles and accept the physical skills he is left with, Brown thinks his future can still be bright.

“You take a player like Zydrunas Ilgauskas who had terrible feet problems, and he was able to play after multiple surgeries and sitting out for awhile,” Brown said of the former Cavaliers center. “He was able to do that because he was skilled. He was not as big as Andrew but he was long.”

Ilgauskas played five games in the 1998-99 season. The following year, he did not play a game and in the 2000-01 season he played just 24 games.

His career seemed destined for what has become of Greg Oden, but instead Ilgauskas returned to play 734 games over 10 seasons as an effective scorer and rebounder.

“Ilgaukas was long, skilled and intelligent, and with that you are going to have a chance to play many years even if a guy like Andrew doesn’t get his explosiveness back,” Brown said. “Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. But he is working hard to be the player he was before.”

Bold predictions as Sixers tip off 2017-18 season

Bold predictions as Sixers tip off 2017-18 season

Each NBA season is filled with unexpected occurrences that change the landscape for a team, division, conference or even the entire league.

The Sixers will need to have a few of their own along the way as they seek their first playoff berth in five years.

With that said, Jessica Camerato, Marshall Harris, Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick each provide a bold prediction for the Sixers’ new season.

Camerato: Embiid gets cleared for back-to-back games
Some people may think this should be a given and not a bold prediction, but given how closely the Sixers are monitoring Joel Embiid's playing time, this isn't a guarantee.

Embiid was not cleared for consecutive games last season as he returned from two years of foot injuries. The Sixers have 14 sets of back-to-backs in 2017-18. Of those, I predict Embiid will play in two pairs of them.

The Sixers will have to check off a comprehensive medical checklist before Embiid is given the green light to play two nights in a row. I do think at some point in the season, they will take this next step and do so on a minutes restriction.

Harris: Fultz won't start more than half Sixers’ games
Yes, Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 overall pick. The Sixers had to trade up to get him. That's why it pains me to admit this. It's not that I want this to be the case, it's just becoming more and more likely with each passing day. Bringing Fultz off the bench to start his NBA career makes the most sense.
 
Fultz is only 19 years old and going up against grown men in the NBA. He's dealing with a shoulder injury he admits has affected his shot, and he's already missed time in the preseason with knee soreness. The knee issue isn't new, as he's dealt with knee problems dating back to his lone season at Washington. 

Add all that up and it's easy to see how his reserve role could go on longer than just the first few games of the season.
 
For Ben Simmons to be most effective, he needs shooters around him. Jerryd Bayless missed almost all of last season, but in 2015-16 he shot 47.7 percent on catch-and-shoot threes. Alongside JJ Redick, Embiid, Robert Covington (I'd like to think he'll shoot better than 28.7 percent from three before January this season) and Bayless, Simmons will have the full complement of shooters he'll need for the Sixers’ offense to pace and space teams to death. 

Coming off the bench will give Fultz the room to grow comfortably, regardless of shoulder and knee issues. It makes sense now and will probably make sense for at least the first half of the season.

Haughton: Redick, Bayless finish top 10 in 3-point percentage
Let it fly. 

As Marshall mentioned above, with ample attention being paid to Embiid down on the block and Simmons serving up those crisp passes, Redick and Bayless should have plenty of good looks from three-point range.

All that’s left is to make the shots. That shouldn’t be a problem for Redick. The career 41.5 percent three-point shooter has finished among the top five in three of the past five seasons, including the No. 1 spot in 2015-16.

Bayless isn’t the same caliber shooter as Redick, but he has made strides to become a serious threat from long range. The veteran combo guard has shot 36.6 percent from distance for his career. However, Bayless connected on a career-high 43.7 percent in ’15-16 with the Bucks, his second season above 40.0.

Recent numbers suggest it will take around a 41.5 percent average to crack the top 10. I say the sharpshooters make the cut and provide the Sixers with an aspect of today’s NBA the team has been severely lacking for quite some time.

Hudrick: Brown gets named NBA’s top coach
Maybe I'm trying to go all LaVar Ball and will this into existence, but my bold prediction is that Brett Brown will win Coach of the Year.

If my season prediction is correct, the Sixers will make the playoffs with the same coach that's finished with a 75-253 record during his first four seasons. Brown has been through so much during his time here. Don't think that'll get lost on voters.

Think about some of the players Brown has had to trot out there. Tony Wroten. James Anderson. Furkan Aldemir. Isaiah Canaan. The one thing you could always say about the Sixers during the tanking years is the players on the court didn't tank. That's a credit to Brown, who had his team prepared and ready to play.

With actual NBA players, Brown will pull this team together. Nobody in this organization deserves vindication of their efforts more.

Wizards' Bradley Beal aims to quiet his buddy Joel Embiid

Wizards' Bradley Beal aims to quiet his buddy Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid has made noise with his mouth and social media presence.

His trash talk took the NBA by storm after the Sixers' preseason finale last Friday against the Miami Heat in Kansas City.

Embiid went after Heat center Hassan Whiteside (there's some history there) in a hilarious Twitter exchange that caught the eyes of many.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal is one of them.

"JoJo is my boy. I like JoJo. We have the same trainer and work out in the summers," Beal said Monday to NBC Sports Washington. "That was crazy. That was really crazy. He was letting his feelings be known."

The Sixers travel to the Wizards for their season opener Wednesday night. While Beal said he likes Embiid’s trash talking because it "keeps guys competitive," he added that his friend better not try it against his team.

"When he plays us, we're going to try to shut him down as best as we can," Beal said. "We aren't trying to hear none of that talking and I'm gonna let him know about it, too."

Embiid joked that he's the social media king.

"To me," he said, "it’s all fun."

The fun shifts to the court Wednesday night.

We'll have to see if the trash talk follows.