Wizards

Bynum remains sidelined by knee discomfort

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Bynum remains sidelined by knee discomfort

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Andrew Bynum did nothing more at Philadelphia 76ers practice than receive some slaps on the back.

His teammates tried to cheer up the center with a simple message: Hang in there.

Bynum wanted so much more out of the day he expected to practice for the first time with his new team. Bynum remained sidelined with right knee pain and is a long shot to play in the Oct. 31 opener.

His debut is on hold and no one knows when Bynum will return. He will continue to be held out of all basketball activity until he is pain free from a bone bruise he suffered during an offseason workout. The Sixers had pegged Wednesday as their franchise player's potential return date after a three-week layoff that cost him the entire preseason slate. Instead, Bynum was on the sidelines while the rest of the Sixers practiced and scrimmaged.

``He's a big investment for our team,'' Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo said. ``We want to be cautious.''

DiLeo said each day Bynum is out increases the likelihood the All-Star center will not be ready for the opener.

Bynum says he wants to be cautious with his return and will not play until he is pain free. He received an injection of Synvisc - a gel-like substance that sometimes provides relief for inflamed tissue - on Monday. The natural substance is designed to lubricate and cushion the joint.

Bynum will then work his way back into low-impact exercises after several days of rest following the injection.

``We just have to talk to Andrew every day and see how he's feeling,'' DiLeo said. ``When he is pain free, that's when he will start basketball activities.''

No one, from DiLeo to Bynum, cared to predict just how much more time Bynum will miss. But with the opener against Denver on the horizon, and Bynum yet to practice, the Sixers are prepared to go with Lavoy Allen at center.

Bynum failed to sound convincing when he said ``there's a possibility'' he could be in the lineup against Denver. He conceded the final decision is up to the Sixers. He won't rush back for the first week and risk injuring the knee to the point where he'll miss serious chunks of time later in the season.

``Everything's about the big picture,'' Bynum said.

With a history of knee injuries already behind him, Bynum said he feels no pain when he walks, just during physical activity. DiLeo said rest should help heal the bruise and the injury was not a ``recurring thing.''

Bynum is coming off his best NBA season after averaging career highs with 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds while making his first All-Star team, starting for the West. He was the NBA's third-leading rebounder and 20th-leading scorer, while also ranking sixth in the league with 1.93 blocked shots per game. The Sixers acquired him from Los Angeles in a four-team deal.

Bynum has been quietly absorbing coach Doug Collins' system from the sideline.

``I think he has a very good handle on our personnel and what each guy does well and stuff,'' Collins said. ``I think it's important, especially as a big guy - when you're playing in that post - to know the guys you're playing with.''

Without Bynum, the Sixers went 6-1 in the preseason, giving them a needed confidence boost they can win without their 7-foot piece in the middle.

``We're not going to look over at a lifeline and say, `Let's wait for our lifeline to get back.' From a coaching standpoint, I have to let our players know we're good enough,'' Collins said. ``We're good enough to win. That's who we can be.

``Hopefully when Andrew comes back we can be even better, maybe take it to another level.''

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Follow Dan Gelston on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APgelston

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Now that the Lakers got Anthony Davis, could the Knicks and others turn to Bradley Beal?

Now that the Lakers got Anthony Davis, could the Knicks and others turn to Bradley Beal?

With all but one of the brick-and-mortar movie stores closed down, there are really only two instances that you hear the word 'blockbuster' these days: when describing Marvel movies and for the type of trade we saw this weekend between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers.

The Anthony Davis deal is a blockbuster trade in every sense. It is big in the number of pieces involved and because Davis is one of the best players on the planet.

It is important because it could immediately vault the Lakers into title contention. And it provides a new superteam for the league to revolve around and for people to loathe with the Golden State Warriors currently licking their wounds.

But it is also the type of deal that will have major consequences around the league, one that will affect far more than just the teams at the top. It will force a collection of other teams to redraw their blueprints.

The obvious ones are the Knicks and Celtics, the two teams most closely linked to Davis in trade rumors. Now, it is New York that has more urgency, if not desperation, to strike in free agency. Boston to regroup and will probably need to ponder other trades if they want to reassert themselves in the Eastern Conference.

The Davis trade would be a major deal no matter the year, but it is fascinating to evaluate in the context of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's injuries. The league went from being very predictable to a wide open pasture of possibilities.

Now, the Warriors are good still but are also a beatable team. A window of NBA parity is cracking open and surely the Lakers won't be the only team to pounce.

Houston, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City are always aggressive and will clearly be thinking big. Portland and Denver could see this as the year to go all-in.

Not all teams looking to make a splash will have money to spend in free agency. That points to an aggressive trade market this summer, but there is arguably one big problem. After Davis, it doesn't seem likely many other stars will be available.

Teams seeking stars via trade have enjoyed plenty of options in recent years between Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. The formula is generally fairly simple: an All-Star player on an underachieving team with the end of his contract in sight. Recently, the supply has met the demand.

But currently, few fit that description. There are some like Mike Conley Jr. of the Grizzlies, and Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside of the Heat. But none of those players are All-Stars in their prime.

All of that makes it easy to connect the dots to the Wizards and Bradley Beal. They are in an interesting spot, needing to decide whether to retool for playoff contention or take the long view and undergo some degree of a rebuild.

Beal, as their best player, is the catalyst. There are logical reasons to keep him or to trade him. He is one of the best players in franchise history, is only 25 and he's on a team-friendly contract in the era of the supermax. But the Wizards are going to have a tough time improving their roster with John Wall's Achilles injury and contract, which starts at 35 percent of the salary cap. 

The Wizards have held a stance of not wanting to trade Beal and still do. They also likely wouldn't make such an important decision without a long-term team president in place.

But that won't stop teams from calling and there is already speculation around the league about whether Beal will be dealt. One front office executive told NBC Sports Washington that Beal could be the top prize in the trade market if made available now that Davis is gone. 

For a lot of these situations, trades are more likely when a player is entering his walk year. Beal is signed through the 2020-21 season and, even if he grows unhappy, will say the right things.

He won't create necessary drama. And, if you take him at his word in a February interview with NBC Sports Washington, he wouldn't request a trade himself.

Also, there is a reason to believe keeping Beal wouldn't hurt their ability to rebuild through the draft. With the new lottery system, bottoming out doesn't offer the guarantees that it used to. And even with Beal playing all 82 games last season, the Wizards still lost 50 of them and finished with the sixth-best odds.

Just like some have argued the Wizards have reasons to trade Beal, they also have reasons not to. But that won't stop other teams from picking up the phone.

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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

WASHINGTON -- Most baseball managers try to operate in monochromatic fashion. They see one goal each day, and it only rests in those 24 hours. Some -- like Davey Martinez -- claim they don’t look at the standings in June. His standard message is to “win today” then move to tomorrow.

Human nature often runs interference on compartmentalization. It even crept up on Martinez on Sunday morning when in the midst of an answer about Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner playing daily. 

“For me, this is a big week,” Martinez said. “We have a chance to make up some ground here. I want these guys readily available to play.”

He’s right. The claim of significance is valid for once in mid-June, not a concept drummed up by overzealous television promos or interminable Internet space. 

The Nationals have seven games in seven days against two teams near the top of the division. Damaged Philadelphia arrives Monday. The Phillies’ bullpen is hurting and ineffective. Bryce Harper could miss the All-Star Game for just the second time in his career. Philadelphia is 6-8 in June. Meanwhile, Atlanta is rolling along. Its lineup remains deep, the pitching functional and Dallas Keuchel set to make his debut here in D.C. next weekend. The Braves hold a 2 ½-game lead in the not-so-great National League East. 

“Not thinking too big picture,” Adam Eaton said. “But knowing we have an in-division rivalry, we’ve got to win those games. It’s important. We’re trying to chase at this point. Not to put too much emphasis on it, but we need to play some really competitive baseball. And we shouldn’t beat ourselves these next four games. Play good baseball and not beat ourselves. If we play the brand of baseball we know how to play, and play clean, we have a good chance.”

Washington is five games under .500. Days are clicking off the calendar. Departing along with them are opportunities to chop at an 8 1/2-game deficit in the division. Following this week, only seven games against Philadelphia remain. However, 13 with Atlanta remain on the schedule, including seven in 10 days in September. The question is if those will matter. Sink this week and they won’t. Pull off a deficit-halving six of seven and everything changes. 

This week’s ramifications will first be felt on the phone lines in a month. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives July 31. Drag back to a double-digit deficit this week and plunk down the “for sale” sign. Rocket through the week and perhaps reinforcements will be found.

Monday brings a dreaded series opener. The Nationals are 6-17 in the first games of series this season. No one knows why. It doesn’t make sense. But, here they are, incapable of winning a first game and constantly playing from behind.

Patrick Corbin will be on the mound attempting to counter the trend. He, like the team when a new opponent shows up, has been in arrears the last three games. Corbin’s ERA dipped to 2.85 following a 116-pitch shutout of Miami on May 25. He’s been bludgeoned since. His ERA is up to 4.11, he will start twice this week, and the Nationals need him to right his ills.

Friday, Corbin threw a bullpen session focused on his line to the plate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart describes what they are trying to accomplish to get Corbin back to the version he was earlier this season:

“His lines and his east-west motion have made it very difficult for him to get the ball to where he wants it to be,” Menhart said. “He needs to be more direct to the plate and have more of a north-south rotation with his upper body and being more stable lower-half wise will allow him to do that and have his deception and hide the ball better and keep that tunnel.”

Corbin agreed. He doesn’t watch much video to cure ruts. He also doesn’t want too much information. The team’s analytics trackers have informed him his arm slot remains in a good place. He thinks his body is still in a running at a high level, dismissing any correlation between his struggles and the workload against Miami. He’s also going through the most common element of reduced success: trying not to chew on it too much.

“I think when I’m away from the field, you think about it more,” Corbin told NBC Sports Washington. “You’re frustrated about it a little bit -- what the heck is going on? But when you get here, you just try to work, try to do things to get better. That’s how I approach it. I’m just looking forward to my next start on Monday going out there and trying to get back to how I know I can pitch.”

Philadelphia arrives after being thumped in Atlanta on Sunday, 15-1. Washington had the opposite day in a 15-5 win. Monday night starts a reckoning of sorts for both. The Nationals will send out their three high-end starters during the four games. Philadelphia is trying to right itself and not let the Braves get out of touch at the top of the division. So, even for the one-day-at-a-time crew, the coming seven carry significant weight, and they’re finally admitting it.

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