LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 27: Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the ball in the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The Andrew Bynum trade was one the 76ers had to make, but the acquisition is not without plenty of risk. Then again, you don't get anywhere in life without taking risks.
I know, I know, I don't write about the 76ers. In fact, only once since I started blogging back in December 2010 have I dedicated a full article solely to them, and that was in March 2011. Listen, it's not that I don't want to like the Sixers, but, I'm sorry, they just simply haven't been an entertaining team since I was in middle school. I'll still watch the NBA as a casual fan, but basketball is my fourth sport, and what have the Sixers represented in recent years other than a team treading water, whose destiny was to either miss the playoffs or sneak in and get smoked in the first round? When the end result of losing while ostensibly -- and barely -- competing is known before a season even starts, that makes it difficult to really care or become otherwise invested. And it's not like the Sixers have played a particularly exciting brand of basketball over the years, either. At the end of the day, I've got three other teams who take up considerable emotional real estate and do a fine job of crushing my spirit. I don't need a fourth that never has a chance to begin with.
The Phillies are continuing their uninspiring season and sputtering to the finish, while the Eagles' first teamers just slogged through their first preseason game and are still about a month away from playing meaningful football. It's August, so the Flyers are very much out of sight, out of mind. That said, the Sixers, long the red-headed stepchild in their city's sports landscape, charged to the forefront last week and made a splash of their own to get the populous buzzing. With the acquisition of the incredibly talented yet mercurial and enigmatic Andrew Bynum, the Sixers' new ownership group took its first major step in reestablishing pro basketball in Philadelphia. Somewhat tempered by the excitement of acquiring arguably the league's second-best center -- who turns 25 in October and seems to just now be entering his prime -- is how he'll mesh with his new coach, teammates, and demanding fans. Make no mistake, this is a trade the Sixers had to consummate in order to do something other than spin their wheels for another year, but it could also end up being the proverbial double-edged sword if Bynum doesn't evolve beyond the immaturity that plagued him in Los Angeles.
Let's be blunt: The Sixers have been largely irrelevant in the NBA for a decade now and essentially a non-entity in their own city since Allen Iverson was traded away in December 2006. In a league where you only have a chance to win by having star players or being bad enough to get a top draft pick so you can draft a potential star player, the Sixers have been puttering along as a middling, fringe playoff team -- nothing more than fodder for the top seeds in the first round of the playoffs (if not for Derrick Rose's injury, 2012 would have ended similarly). When it comes to the Eagles, Phillies, and Flyers, fans have entered recent seasons with real hopes of competing for a championship. Not even the most ardent, blind homer of a Sixers fan could claim going into a season with championship aspirations. Teams led by complementary players masquerading as stars cannot legitimately compete with the big boys in this sport.
Enter Andrew Bynum. In a league where the rarest commodity is a skilled, dominant center who can control the paint at both ends of the floor, he has a chance to achieve status as the best at his position. Bynum is already the de facto top center in the Eastern Conference, and his only competition in the league for supremacy at the position is Dwight Howard. If Bynum can stay healthy -- which, given his injury history, is a big "if" -- and committed, it is my opinion he will be the preeminent center in basketball two or three years from now. Whether he's still a member of the Sixers at that time remains to be seen. Bynum's on-court pratfalls and personality red flags have been well-documented and present cause for concern, especially when you consider the gaping void in team leadership now that Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand are gone -- which, by the way, is a significant development that should not be overlooked. Sure, Doug Collins provides leadership in his capacity as head coach, but he's not a peer. Who on the team is going to get in Bynum's face and take him down a peg or two if he starts screwing around? Jrue Holiday? Evan Turner? Spencer Hawes? Thaddeus Young? Jason Richardson (who, along with Kwame Brown, is the team's most senior league veteran)? Yeah, like Bynum's going to truly respect or listen to any of them. The Sixers have taken a monumental risk with this acquisition, but at least they took one. Whether or not Bynum works out in Philly, you can't fault management for trying. At the end of the day, what more can we, as fans, really ask for?