On Friday, the Philadelphia 76ers did something. I mean they really, actually did something in the world of professional basketball. In acquiring Andrew Bynum, a trajectory has been set for this franchise. There is a real, distinct chance that this team could contend for an NBA championship as early as two or three seasons from now. This is no small feat, as the situation the 76ers had found themselves in was significantly less than ideal.
In the NBA, the economic system dictates that you, as a team, either need to be a contender or you need to be rebuilding. There is no “good” in this league. Just ask Daryl Morey if you don’t believe me. He’s been on a warpath to land a superstar for years. Now that he’s realized he can’t, he’s shifted his focus to sucking as soon as possible.
Being caught in the middle of the pro basketball pack ensures that you are not good enough to contend with the best teams but far too formidable to draft a difference maker. Boy, had the Philadelphia 76ers found that middle… existing as assembled, the Sixers were never going to win a title so they needed to make a move.
The only problem was that seemingly the only move to be made involved a considerable amount of risk; risk that the “difference-maker” you acquire might leave the team gutted at the season’s end. This is only a problem if you are too short-sighted to realize that you truthfully have nothing to lose.
In making this decision, the 76ers have rid themselves of that pesky Andre Iguodala, the man who kept them too good to rebuild for so long, and made certain that they will no longer be part of NBA purgatory. If Andrew Bynum works out as a 76er, plays well, and the team can build around him for the future, that will be a major victory for the franchise. If he flops in Philly and walks when all is said and done, then the team will be atrocious. They will lose a TON of games and contend, for the next few seasons at least, for the top five picks in the lottery.
For ownership, this is a massive gamble with a product that could have easily yielded them a few more years of profitability without warranting such risk. For the fans, however, this is one of the best decisions in franchise history; this is a get-out-of-jail-free card. This team is either going to contend for a championship or build for one through the draft and, after this season, there is no more in between.
For Andrew Bynum, the latest appointed savior of our beautiful city, the focus should remain on himself. I say “remain” because we all know that’s where it’s been all along. We’ve heard rumblings about Bynum’s desire to be “the guy” on his team and, as I’m sure he is aware, that was never going to happen on a team employing Kobe Bryant. In the Philadelphia 76ers, Bynum has found a team that desperately needs him to do what he has so longed for in Los Angeles. They need him to be the premier, go-to offensive option. What Bynum has always wanted is at his fingertips. This is his chance to become something he was never going to be in L.A. : a true superstar.
The happiest person of all in this situation should be Evan Turner. With the roster this team was boasting before the deal, his development was the only meaningful story line. Turner’s growth into a superstar, something he has shown no signs of being, was going to dictate whether this team could salvage this group or had to find a way to bottom out in a hurry. With Bynum’s arrival, Turner reaching his potential becomes just icing on this delicious, blue, white, and red velvet cake.
It’s not all roses and sunshine, however, for the newlyweds in this case. There still remain some serious questions about how this can all fit together. Bynum is notorious for having a lackadaisical attitude towards coaching instruction and can be rough around the edges when dealing with the media.
With Doug Collins being the coach of this team and sports media being what it is in Philly, I have my doubts that this will go off without a hitch. There is also the loss of Iguodala to consider. Some of you may scoff at that last sentence but make no mistake, Andre Iguodala was a leader and stabilizing force on this young team. Regardless of Bynum’s obvious skill set, Iggy’s absence will certainly be felt.
All around, this should be a glorious time to be a Sixers fan. The franchise’s future has not looked this promising since before Allen Iverson stopped attending practice. Before this move, there was seemingly no plan. In making this commitment to excellence or excrement, the Sixers’ front office has sent a clear message to their fan base that we have been desperately waiting to hear. Deep down, beneath all of the boasting about last season’s imitation post-season success; behind the signing of one Kwame James Brown, they understand. They really do understand.