Capitals

76ers face unsure future waiting for Bynum

201301122112763326673-p2.jpeg

76ers face unsure future waiting for Bynum

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Andrew Bynum had an adoring public in front of him and beaming management on stage to his right.

The Philadelphia 76ers had thrown open the doors of a press conference to the public and hundreds of fans, longing for a reason to get excited again, came to chant the name of their new superstar. Eager to win over his new supporters, Bynum worked the faithful into a frenzy. Without playing a game for the Sixers, he said he wanted to make Philadelphia his home - and the team was ready to commit.

``Where do I sign?'' owner Joshua Harris said. ``Show me the contract.''

Harris should be glad now he didn't sign any deals in early August.

Those cheers for Bynum were the only ones the 7-foot center has heard 38 games into a season that has the Sixers spiraling from hopeful Atlantic Division contenders toward the NBA draft lottery. With Bynum, the Sixers expected to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Without him, the Sixers are lagging at 16-22 and entered Monday four games behind Boston for the final spot in the East.

The Sixers can't blame all their woes on missing Bynum.

But he sure would help.

``It's hard to say how it's affected us because we haven't played with him,'' forward Thaddeus Young said.

Bynum has sat out the season because of bone bruises on both his knees. Bynum, an All-Star last year with the Lakers, in on a six-step rehabilitation process that he hopes will get him back into lineup around the Feb. 15 All-Star break. He's worked weights into his rehab and started running on Monday.

He proclaimed his knees pain free.

``They're the best I've had in a long time, so they look really, really good to me,'' Bynum told reporters Monday after practice.

Again, Bynum had no true timetable for his return, though ``around the All-Star break'' was the first new range he suggested in weeks. Bynum's potential return date has been in flux since training camp. One day before practice was set to open, the Sixers announced Bynum would be shut down for three weeks as a precaution after he received knee treatment in Germany. Three weeks has turned into three months. He even injured his left knee while bowling.

He participated in shooting drills with assistant coaches Michael Curry and Brian James, as well as head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson on Monday. Bynum cautioned, though, that he still had plenty of rehabilitation left to complete.

``I'm not back. But I'm headed in that direction,'' he said. ``It's all positive.''

The 76ers good use a dose of good news. Their 10-6 start has twisted into a 6-16 stretch entering Tuesday's game against New Orleans. The Sixers hope Saturday's win over Houston to open a stretch of 12 home games in the next 13 can be the calming factor that stabilizes their season. Throw in Bynum's return, and the Sixers just might be able to still make a dent in the postseason.

Team president Rod Thorn and general manager Tony DiLeo would love to know Bynum's availability before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. If Bynum hasn't returned, or the Sixers are still scuffling, the front office could look to make more big trades to win down the road.

Bynum, who averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds last season, would be worth the wait if he matched those numbers.

``We've got Andrew Bynum, All-Star,'' Young said. ``He's a great player and we're willing to wait on him each and every day. He's definitely a focal point of what we're trying to do. He's definitely, `The guy.' I wouldn't rather have anybody else.''

Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown haven't come close to filling Bynum's numbers at center. Allen has taken a big step back from his rookie season and is averaging only 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. Before their 107-100 win over Houston on Saturday, the Sixers ranked 27th in the NBA in scoring (92.2 points) and have regularly failed to even reach 90 points over the last six weeks. They scored more than 89 points for the first time in six games against the Rockets.

Not exactly what CEO Adam Aron expected when he touted at Bynum's arrival, ``The Sixers are once again the talk of the town.''

The Sixers have lost 13 of their last 17 games but a soft slate of games this week against New Orleans and Toronto could help turn that around.

The struggles haven't fractured the locker room under coach Doug Collins, and the tight unit has bounced back from swoons before.

``We're not going to splinter,'' Collins said, ``not as long as I'm the coach.''

DiLeo has repeatedly said he would make the Bynum trade again. What else would he say? Bynum is in the final year of his contract and would love nothing more to return to help the Sixers win and prove he's healthy enough to merit a $100-plus million deal in the summer.

Lost in the shuffle of the Sixers dumping Elton Brand, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala was their decision to send Nikola Vucevic to Orlando as part of the four-team Bynum trade. Vucevic fell out of Collins' rotation at the end of last season and played in only one of their 13 playoff games. The 7-footer is sixth in the NBA in rebounds (11.0) and is making only $1.76 million - scraps compared to the $16.75 million Bynum will earn this season.

Bynum is eligible for a five-year contract after July 1, once he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Sixers can offer Bynum more years and money than any other team. With good reason, they want to know what kind of Bynum is on the market: The L.A. All-Star or the Sixers' Sidelined Center.

Quick Links

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Hurricanes tie series with Caps, Blues take series lead, Sharks avoid elimination

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Hurricanes tie series with Caps, Blues take series lead, Sharks avoid elimination

As the first-round starts to head into the final games, each matchup is getting more and more critical, as was evident Thursday. Not only did the Carolina Hurricanes have the chance to even up the series with the Washington Capitals in Game 4, but the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets were playing for the 3-2 series lead and the San Jose Sharks found themselves in a must-win situation in order to avoid elimination against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Thursday's slate of games proved to be crucial and ultimately, played out well for the Hurricanes, Blues and Sharks. Here's how each series stacked up Thursday.

Hurricanes tie series against Caps with narrow 2-1 win

It was a close matchup between Washington and Carolina Thursday, but thanks to a couple of key goals and a big night for Petr Mrazek between the pipes, the Hurricanes were able to take Game 4 with a 2-1 victory.

Warren Foegele opened the scoring for Carolina just 17 seconds in, crashing the net and scoring on a lay-up that beat Braden Holtby. It was his third goal of the playoffs and the fastest playoff goal for Carolina in franchise history.

Alex Ovechkin was able to even the score in the second period with a one-timer on the man advantage, putting an end to 11 straight penalty kills for the Canes. The goal was Ovechkin's second of the playoffs, with both tallies coming on the power play. However, just before the second period came to a close, Teuvo Teravainen returned the lead for Carolina to make it 2-1.

Petr Mrazek made 30 saves on the night, including eight in the third period to guarantee the victory for the Hurricanes, while Holtby made 22 saves on 24 shots. Washington also lost T.J. Oshie to injury late in the game after he was hit from behind by Warren Foegele. The series is now tied 2-2.

Blues edge Jets with comeback victory, take series lead

Although the Jets were up 2-0 over the Blues heading into the third period, Winnipeg surrendered three unanswered goals as St. Louis took a 3-2 victory.

Adam Lowry scored just 12 seconds into the opening frame for the Jets' fastest playoff goal in franchise history to make it 1-0, and Kevin Hayes added a goal a little over halfway through the first to make it 2-0.

The lead would carry over until the final 20 minutes of regulation, where the Blues kicked it into full gear. Ryan O'Reilly beat Connor Hellebuyck on the power play a little over a minute into the third to pull the Blues within one. With about seven minutes to go, Brayden Schenn would tie the game at 2 with his first goal of the playoffs.

With the final minute winding down, it appeared that the game would be headed to overtime; however, Tyler Bozak was able to knock the puck loose and find a wide-open Jaden Schwartz in front, who fired the puck past Hellebuyck with just 15 seconds remaining to make it 3-2.

With the victory, the Blues now hold a 3-2 series lead and can eliminate Winnipeg in Game 6 Saturday.

Sharks stay alive with statement 5-2 win over Golden Knights

Thursday's game was a must-win for the Sharks, and thanks mainly to the effort of Tomas Hertl, they were able to dominate on home ice with an impressive win over Vegas.

A little over a minute in, Tomas Hertl jumped on a pass from Erik Karlsson and scored his third of the playoffs to make it 1-0 early. Later in the period, Logan Couture would beat Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Sharks up by two, but with 30 seconds to go in the opening frame, Reilly Smith was able to pull Vegas within one with his first of the postseason.

While it looked like Vegas would be able to shift the momentum with their end to the first, Barclay Goodrow redirected a Justin Braun shot past Fleury and the Sharks regained their two-goal lead.

Jonathan Marchessault would strike for the Golden Knights on the power play over halfway into the third to cut the lead to one, but Hertl soon after scored his second of the night on the rebound of a Joe Pavelski shot to make it 4-2. With less than two minutes to go in regulation, Pavelski scored on the empty net for his second point of the game, which ultimately sealed the deal for the Sharks.

Martin Jones, who had been struggling but was given the start regardless, proved his worth with 30 saves on 32 shots, and Erik Karlsson also put up a multi-point performance for San Jose in the win.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Why Daron Payne switched to No. 94 as soon as it was available

foles-payne-eagles-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports images

Why Daron Payne switched to No. 94 as soon as it was available

Redskins' defensive lineman Daron Payne will be sporting a new number in his second season, reverting back to No. 94 after playing his rookie season in the Burgundy and Gold at No. 95.

Payne, who had preferred No. 94 through his days in high school as well as while down in Tuscaloosa as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, didn't have the option to choose it after being selected 13th by the Redskins in the 1st Round of the 2018 NFL Draft, as the number was already claimed by then-Redskin Preston Smith, who had chosen it three years earlier.

With Smith off to Green Bay, Payne pounced on the opportunity to shift back to the jersey number that he'd gone with for so long before coming to the nation's capital. 

Payne performed admirably in his inaugural season with Washington, recording 35 solo tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble, while suiting up in all 16 games and receiving praise for his outstanding play from the Pro Football Writers Association as one of the premier up-and-coming interior linemen in the NFL.

MORE NFL DRAFT NEWS: