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The Andrew Bynum Trade: The Big Bang of The Process turns 5

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The Andrew Bynum Trade: The Big Bang of The Process turns 5

When the official book of The Process is written, its first chapter will begin on August 10, 2012. 

That's the date when the Sixers unexpectedly wormed their way into the biggest trade of the '12 offseason, a four-way deal with the Lakers, Magic and Nuggets that saw Philly deal their best player (Andre Iguodala) and a handful of not-quite-blue-chip assets (Nikola Vucevic, Mo Harkless, a protected future first) for the guy who was supposed to usher in the next era of Philadelphia 76ers basketball: talented, enigmatic Lakers big Andrew Bynum. 

The consequences were drastic, and in none of the ways we wanted: Bynum got injured and stayed injured, never playing a healthy game in Philadelphia, while Iguodala thrived in Denver and then Golden State, Vucevic stuffed stat sheets in Orlando, and Sixers coach Doug Collins gradually lost his mind as Bynum festered on (and/or nowhere near) the Sixers' bench. If you can remember one thing that happened on the court for those Sixers that season (with the possible exception of Nick Young's infamous falling-out-of-bounds heave), kudos -- more likely, your memory of '12-'13 is an amalgam of bizarre hairdos and even stranger press conferences

But of course, we all remember what happened next: Collins left, and caretaker GM Tony DiLeo was replaced with our Once and Always Dark Lord, Sam Hinkie. After the Bynum trade stripped our team of rebuilding assets, Hinkie was charged with restocking the cabinet, an order he carried out with extreme prejudice: Young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday was swapped for Nerlens Noel and another draft pick -- which Hinkie then used to get back the pick Collins dealt to Orlando -- and within a couple years, the Sixers had one of the league's best collections of rebuilding pieces, despite having gotten no tangible return from the Bynum deal but a couple sporadically healthy months of late-career Jason Richardson. 

There's an argument to be made that it's still the best trade the Sixers have made this decade. 

As long ago as late 2013, I wrote about how the Bynum deal was actually a good thing for the Sixers. It was the necessary boom-or-bust moment for a team whose fans had long tired of seasons hovering a couple games above or below .500, and who were ready to swing for the upper deck even if it meant possibly whiffing in cartoonish fashion. "What the Sixers basically did two summers ago was trade Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a pick for the opportunity to hit the rest button on their franchise," I theorized. "It hurts to lose future assets like Vucevic and Harkless--we could certainly use both in a year or two's time--but all in all, it seems like a small price to pay for finally getting the franchise on the right track."

Nearly four years later, that last part feels even truer. The NBA of the seasons since has proven increasingly inhospitable to its middle class: either you're legitimately competing with LeBron and the Warriors, or you may as well blow it all up. Building around Iguodala, Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young probably wasn't a viable option back then, and it definitely wouldn't have been in a couple years' time as the team took a big leap in salary but not in potential. Without the Bynum trade, The Sixers might have turned into a cautionary tale by now. Instead, they're playing in the Christmas kick-off game this year.

Though it feels like a discussion far beyond moot at this point, it's also probably worth recalling how in the summer of 2012, Andrew Bynum was a 24-year-old big man coming off a career season (19 and 12 on 56% shooting) in which he'd played 60 of 66 possible games. He was the kind of guy you bet the farm on -- especially when you don't have the crops to develop one yourself. Of course, you have to wonder why our medical staff didn't notice (care?) about the red flags that would manifest with Bynum before even his first practice and quicklky resulted in his knees turning to Laffy Taffy, but in theory, the logic was sound. 

And that's what it's all about right? Though Sam Hinkie never really shared his thoughts on the Bynum trade -- he called it a "failure" shortly after his hiring, but that was more about the then-free-agent Bynum and his prospects of being re-signed by the Sixers, which, chortle -- it's hard to imagine he wouldn't have at least admired the deal's intent. Sixers fans got angry last month when an article on The Ringer mis-attributed the swap to Hinkie's regime, but the confusion is somewhat understandable: The Bynum trade was essentially proto-Process, both in its big-picutre sense of purpose, and (ultimately, sadly, frustratingly) in its borderline-catastrophic outcome. 

It's actually not hard to find parallels in the Bynum deal with a non-Sixers blockbuster pulled off this summer: Paul George going from Indiana to OKC, in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Imagine Paul George, an expiring deal with no built-in loyalty to OKC, gets hurt this season. Or imagine he simply doesn't gel brilliantly with Russell Westbrook, the team underwhelms and he leaves without hesitation in the offseason, with Westbrook following shortly after. Then the trade was a tragedy, right? 

Well, no. The Thunder gave up a lot in the deal, but they also come out about even money-wise, and if George bombs and leaves -- with Westbrook likely not far behind -- it puts them in a position to tear down immediately, and start their maybe-always-inevitable hard rebuild for the future. The Sixers gave up a little more than OKC did, and George is generally a lower-risk guy, but the skeletons of the deals are similar. But the Thunder won't get roasted if theirs falls apart: We're a lot smarter about them as a public now than we were five years ago -- it only took a couple hours for the NBA media to start cap-doffing to OKC GM Sam Presti for the parachute he'd packed himself while trying to pull off such a seemingly dangerous trade stunt. 

As the Sixers go into the 2017-'18 season with the actual team we tried to pretend we had in '12-'13 -- a core of (seemingly) well-fitting, elite prospects, who should grow into a legitimate Eastern Conference power, possibly as soon as this year -- it's hard to feel much but gratitude towards the Bynum trade. Back then, it felt like the end of the world, and it was -- but really, we never much liked that world to begin with. The NBA world we're living in now has already been infinitely more rewarding, and we haven't even started winning yet. Trust the 'fro-cess.

Redskins RB thinks Eagles fans are mean (but maybe a little clever too)

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AP photo

Redskins RB thinks Eagles fans are mean (but maybe a little clever too)

There's never any love lost between NFC East rivals so this Monday's much-anticipated contest between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins is sure to bring plenty of chatter to go along with some exciting football.

Philly's reputation often precedes it and there was some new fuel added to that fire on Wednesday when Washington running back Chris Thompson said some inflammatory -- or complimentary, depending how you look at it -- things about our city's thoughtful fans.

Thompson was a guest on ESPN 980 this morning and said he's anxious to play the Eagles in Philly because they're one of the best teams in the NFL. But also for other reasons.

From the Washington Post:

“Philly fans are some of the meanest fans I’ve ever experienced, too,” he said, “so I’m excited about that as well.”

Host Bram Weinstein then asked for any favorite tales, and Thompson obliged.

“You see a lot of the players pregame when we run out of the tunnel, guys just go pray or whatever in the end zone,” Thompson said. “And [two years ago] I went and prayed in the end zone, and one of the [fans] told me, he was like ‘God’s not gonna help you today.’ And I was like oh, shoot. I heard it while I was praying. I was like dang, all right, that’s a little harsh.”

Harsh. But fair!

On a serious note, Thompson also said he's not planning on bringing his family to Philly for the game.

“I heard that’s the one stadium you keep your family from going to,” Thompson told Weintstein. “My family will be here this week, and they were like ‘I want to come to the Philly game.’ I said absolutely not, you’re gonna have to wait until Dallas comes around. Because my step dad, he’s a big guy. And if he starts fighting, It’ll be real bad out there. I was told that right away my rookie year: keep your family away.”

Now, I can't say I disagree entirely. But not just with Eagles games in Philly. NFL games in general are most certainly not a family friendly environment. Every other week there's a video of an incident from Carolina or San Francisco or any other stadium around the country of fans acting in ways that are incredibly unfriendly to a family environment.

I took my now wife to her first Eagles game three seasons ago. We sat in the club level where I joked (kinda) that she wouldn't see any of the infamous rowdy behavior. That was before one of the largest brawls I've ever seen broke out with guys tumbling down row after row. And that was Eagles-fan-on-Eagles-fan violence.

The Sixers may be mishandling Markelle Fultz's injury

The Sixers may be mishandling Markelle Fultz's injury

We don’t know much about the nature of the shoulder injury that’s bothering Sixers guard Markelle Fultz. We don’t know when he got hurt. We don’t know exactly what the injury is. We don’t know how long it will take to recover.

All we know is that whatever is wrong with Fultz’s shoulder, he can barely heave a free throw to the basket from 16 feet away. His shot has been so obviously altered, people assumed the Sixers had to be messing with the 19-year-old’s mechanics. And with his performance visibly affected, and his minutes limited during the preseason, the No. 1 choice in the 2017 NBA draft is set to begin the season on the bench.

That plan was announced to some controversy, as Fultz becomes one of a small handful — and, to this point, disappointing batch — of recent top overall picks who failed to open their rookie seasons as starters. Yet, lost in the hoopla over whether coming off the bench is an ominous sign for Fultz’s future is a far more practical question.

Should Fultz be playing at all?

Fultz appeared in only two exhibition games for the Sixers, and they weren’t pretty. He shot 2 for 13 from the field (0 for 3 from three) and scored four points against the Grizzlies, and scored 12 points off of 5 for 11 shooting from the field (no three-point attempts) against the Celtics. Numbers aside, Fultz’s shot looked flat and often came up short of the basket. He looked like a kid who’s playing hurt.

Naturally, team doctors are privy to a lot of medical information the general public is not — in this case, all of the information — but it’s difficult to watch Fultz struggle to hoist a basketball to the rim and not ask what good playing is doing him. And given the Sixers’ fiasco handling Joel Embiid’s torn meniscus last season, it’s certainly fair to wonder whether the organization has this latest situation under control.

Embiid wouldn’t undergo surgery for two months after the injury, initially classified as a bone bruise, and is beginning this season on a minutes restriction partially as a result. Seemingly in response to criticism over the debacle, the Sixers created the post of vice president of athlete care and tabbed Dr. C. Daniel Medina Leal for the position in September.

Apologies if that move didn’t immediately erase any concerns or skepticism.

Conversely, we’ve also seen this same organization practice extreme caution when dealing with injuries to Ben Simmons and Embiid. Simmons missed a full season, and Embiid missed two full years, both with foot injuries. The Sixers are still exercising more restraint than some would like with Embiid’s current restrictions. It’s been maddening at times, but simultaneously easy to see where they’re coming from.

So why not show a modicum of patience with Fultz and allow him to rest his injury? Granted, there’s generally far more risk involved with lower-body injuries, particularly those of the magnitude Embiid and Simmons were dealing with. But even if Fultz isn’t doing any more damage to his shoulder or slowing the healing process by playing, what exactly is the benefit to his working through this?

Sixers coach Brett Brown talked about the need to balance Fultz’s development with winning games. How much does the rookie’s presence on the hardwood help the Sixers accomplish either goal right now?

Fultz’s shot couldn’t possibly be as painful to watch as it is for him to take, and you can only imagine the toll that’s taking physically and mentally. Will it hurt his confidence? Will it prolong the recovery? Will it cause him to alter his form even after the pain has dissipated? Will he be able to focus on honing other aspects of the game?

Because while it’s been only two preseason games — and just two summer league games before he went down with a sprained ankle — it doesn’t look the Sixers are counting on Fultz to key many victories in the early stages of this season.

There are 82 games to go, not including the prospect of playoffs. If the Sixers are worried about Fultz’s development, there’s time. It’s a long season.

Again, we don’t actually know much at all about Fultz’s injury, so maybe it’s unfair to judge. But going off of the two preseason games he played, I’m not certain I understand the rush to get Fultz on the court when he’s clearly laboring.