Last offseason, the Philadelphia 76ers pulled off a blockbuster four-team deal that saw them net former Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum. Sure they had to give up All-Star Andre Iguodala as part of the deal; but this seemed like a reasonable sacrifice for a 7-foot, two-time NBA champion center.
After acquiring Bynum, Philadelphia thought they were getting a player who was entering his prime after averaging 18.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG and 1.9 BPG in the 2011-2012 campaign. Instead, what they got is a guy with terrible knees who didn’t play a game all season.
Sixers legend Julius Erving recently weighed in on the matter in an interview with the Philadelphia Enquirer. And Dr. J had some very interesting comments about his old rival, the Lakers. “When you talk to the Lakers, when you talk to the Celtics, when you talk to – well, those two in particular – the guy on the other end of the phone has his fingers crossed,” Erving said. “So whatever he’s telling you, he’s not telling you the truth. He’s working a deal for him. And what happened to us last year with getting damaged goods hopefully will only happen once. And that’s the extent of that learning curve.”
Erving is close to the situation because he serves as a consultant to 76ers owner Joshua Harris. And ESPN’s SportsCenter asked him to further expand on the comments he made to the Enquirer. “I was talking about the Sixers and the management and the ownership and their commitment to excellence, to being a contender, to being a champion,” recalled Dr. J. “And they set a timeline of five to seven years three seasons ago, so as they close in on that timeline, the comment was really about not making any mistakes. Not making decisions that don’t turn out.
“So that’s how we got over to the Andrew Bynum decision, which on paper seemed like a good decision. But forewarned is foretold. If you’re going to deal with the Celtics who are our natural rivals, or the Lakers, the two teams that have won the most championships in the NBA, they’re always going to make deals where they get the better end of the deal. That’s been their history, that’s how they presently are and that’s how they’re going to be in the future.
“So for the Sixers, to get Andrew Bynum and think he was going to be an All-Star and an all-pro and think he was going to be a valuable part of the franchise, as was the thinking, it turned out to be a bad deal.”
To say that the Bynum trade was a bad deal is an understatement. He turned out to be a $16.5 million waste of roster space after not suiting up the entire season. When training camp began, the 7-footer was adamant that he’d play at some point in 2013. But as the months wore on, it was looking increasingly likely that he’d sit out the entire year. On March 18th, the speculation was finally put to rest when he underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees, thus ending his season.
So what does the future hold for Andrew Bynum in Philadelphia? He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July and still believes that he can sign a maximum contract somewhere….however, delusional this notion may be. Despite his lost season for the 76ers and degenerative knee problems, it’s likely that some team will gamble on the 25-year-old. Just don’t expect that team to be Philadelphia, which is in rebuilding mode once again.
Sam Hinkie, who’s the new president of basketball operations and GM in Philadephia, didn’t exactly give Bynum a vote of confidence. “I think of Andrew like the thousands of other young men walking around the world that are unrestricted free agents that have potential to play NBA basketball,” he said. “He is one of those. I’m duty bound to consider them and look at them. All of them.”
Reading between the lines, Hinkie may be searching elsewhere to find the future of the Philadelphia 76ers. After all, he wouldn’t want to make the same mistake as his predecessors Rod Thorn (former 76ers president) and Tony DiLeo (former GM), who are collectively blamed for one of the worst deals in the team’s history.