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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.

Cowboys fans left early so Eagles fans took over Jerry World

Cowboys fans left early so Eagles fans took over Jerry World

Is there anything better for a Philly sports fan than watching the Eagles put an absolute beating on the Dallas Cowboys? Getting to watch those slimy Cowboys fans squirm?

I think not.

And that's exactly what transpired on Sunday Night Football at AT&T Stadium when the Birds put on a second-half show and finished of the Cowboys by a final of 37-9.

Carson Wentz showed Dak Prescott how to play quarterback. What's up, Skip?

And Eagles fans were eating it up all night long.

Things got out of reach for the Cowboys so early in the second half in this one that the local fans threw in the towel early and headed for the exits. The Philadelphia fans in Texas used it as an opportunity to let Jerry World hear those wonderful E-A-G-L-E-S chants.

Eagles fans have a reputation for traveling well and that was most certainly the case on Sunday in Texas.

A win all around for Philly fans.

Check out some of the shots from the stadium:

Sunday night was a moment to savor for Philly fans. We're expecting many more just like it.

Grading Eagles' 37-9 win over Cowboys in Week 11

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AP Images

Grading Eagles' 37-9 win over Cowboys in Week 11

Grading the Eagles' 37-9 win Sunday night over the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium (see breakdown):

QUARTERBACK
Carson Wentz: 14/27, 168 YDS, 2 TD

This was by no means Wentz's best game, yet there was still a lot to like about his performance. The 24-year-old remains unflappable, standing in the pocket and taking some pops, yet still delivering an accurate football. He took off and ran three times for 16 yards, but never put himself in harm's way. No turnovers, again, which is often the most important statistic of all. Give Wentz three two-point conversions, too. It wasn't always pretty, but it got the job done.

Grade: A-

RUNNING BACKS
Corey Clement: 6 ATT, 50 YDS, 1 TD

In a backfield that features Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, Clement might be the best of the bunch (see Roob's observations). The undrafted rookie has a nose for the end zone, scoring on an 11-yard scamper and capping it off with the two-point conversion. Kenjon Barner followed up a 22-yard reception with a four-yard rushing TD as well. Speaking of Ajayi, his career-long 71-yard carry set up another TD, while Blount ripped off a 30-yarder that also led to points.

Grade: A+

WIDE RECEIVERS
Alshon Jeffery: 4 REC, 67 YDS, 1 TD

Just when I was ready to rip Torrey Smith for another dropped pass, he made perhaps the toughest grab during his Eagles tenure — an 11-yard touchdown in traffic. Smith finished with three receptions for 28 yards, but it was Jeffery who stole the show here. His 17-yard score was an impressive snag, holding on to a bullet while going to the ground with a pair of Cowboys defenders trying to rip it away. Give Jeffery two points for good measure.

Grade: B+

TIGHT ENDS
Brent Celek: 1 REC, 28 YDS

Hard to say if Zach Ertz's lack of involvement was because the Cowboys' defense focused on trying to take him away or if it was simply a quiet night. Whatever the case, the Eagles' leading receiver wound up with two receptions for eight yards. At least Celek's lone catch happened to the longest completion of the game, and Trey Burton was able to get in on the two-point parade.

Grade: B-

OFFENSIVE LINE
NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth said the Eagles' offensive line might be the most underrated unit in the NFL, and it's difficult to argue. The big fellas up front limited a good Cowboys pass rush to six quarterback hits and zero sacks, while also paving the way for 218 yards on the ground on 30 attempts (excluding kneel-downs). That's a 7.3 average. And remember, this is all without Jason Peters. That Halapoulivaati Vaitai is a player.

Grade: A+

DEFENSIVE LINE
Derek Barnett: 3 TKL, 2.0 SK, 3 QBH, 2 TFL, 1 PD, 1 FF

The Cowboys' backup left tackles sure are doing wonders for NFL pass rushers. This time, it was Barnett benefitting from the injury to Tyron Smith (see Rookie Report). The Eagles' first-round draft pick enjoyed his most impactful game as a pro, while Tim Jernigan and Brandon Graham tacked on sacks as well. The front four generated a lot of pressure, which played a role in three interceptions, although they were curiously soft against the run. Dallas averaged 4.1 yards per attempt.

Grade: A

LINEBACKERS
Nigel Bradham: 6 TKL, 1 FR, 1 TD

Bradham scooped up the fumble caused by Barnett and raced 37 yards to put the game away. Otherwise, it was not a very impactful performance from the Eagles' linebackers, who played a role in the defense's struggled to stop the run. Mychal Kendricks registered four tackles and a quarterback hit, but it was a quiet game for the duo overall.

Grade: B-

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Ronald Darby: 8 TKL, 1 INT, 2 PD

Welcome back, Mr. Darby. In his first game since injuring his ankle in Week 1, Darby led the way in tackles and got in on the pick parade. Rodney McLeod had one, via a tipped pass from Malcolm Jenkins, who later snared an interception of his own. Give Patrick Robinson a pass breakup on a pivotal third down, and let's not forget Jalen Mills, who was physical and racked up seven tackles. This secondary is legit.

Grade: A+

SPECIAL TEAMS
Jake Elliott: Left game in 1st QTR (concussion)

Kamu Grugier-Hill took over for Elliott on kickoffs, and it raised an interesting strategic question. If a backup linebacker is able to boot the ball into the end zone, why risk your field-goal kicker on kickoffs at all? The Eagles survived despite the injury, in addition to the Cowboys' 61-yard kick return to open the game. At least the punting game was strong, as Donnie Jones averaged 45.1 yards on six tries.

Grade: B-

COACHING
Eagles' record: 9-1

Doug Pederson got a little pass-happy in the first half, to negative results. Wentz struggled to find a rhythm, and the offense stalled repeatedly. The Eagles went into the locker room trailing 9-7, but Pederson figured it out in the second half. He gave the ball to his deep stable of backs, and they carried him to victory. Great adjustment. Jim Schwartz's defense didn't have its best game against the run, but completely shut down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' passing attack, so it didn't matter. The winning streak is now at eight.

Grade: A