Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Bynum Making The Wrong Kind of Headlines

Let’s get this out of the way first. Andrew Bynum was correct on Sunday when he told reporters that playing for seven years with Kobe Bryant stunted his development as a player.

As reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com on Sunday, Bynum told a group of Los Angeles media: “I thought it really helped me a lot obviously at first, because he draws so much attention it’s hard for guys to double team and key on you, so it helped me tremendously. Later, as I felt I was able to get the ball more and do more things with the ball, so I could definitely see how it could stunt growth.”

Not even Bryant had a problem with Bynum’s statement.

“For sure, because when you’re playing with me you obviously have to sacrifice something,” Bryant said.

Bryant went on to call Bynum a “really special player at both ends of the floor.”

There’s only one problem with Bynum’s little speech before the first visit from the Los Angeles Lakers to Philadelphia since Bynum was traded to the 76ers over the summer.

Bynum has yet to play a minute for the Sixers since the trade.

While the 76ers wait for their new No. 1 option to return to the court, Bynum said there were some hopeful signs.

“Actually I’m feeling better and the pain is down in both knees, which is good,” Bynum said. “But there could be something floating around in there.”

That last sentence roughly translates to “no time soon” to answer the question about when Bynum might actually appear in the red-white-and-blue.

He is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Thursday to examine both knees and said he is still feeling discomfort in his left one.

There’s never been any question about Bynum’s ability. In 60 games for the Lakers in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Bynum averaged a career-best 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.

The question has always been about Bynum’s ability to stay on the court. He’s perhaps the most oft-injured big man since Bill Walton. Discounting his rookie year of 2005-06, when he was just out of high school and only played sparingly, Bynum has missed 154 of a possible 500 games from 2006-07 to this season. That total includes all 24 of Philadelphia’s games in 2012-13.

Credit coach Doug Collins and the Sixers’ commitment to defense for Philadelphia’s staying afloat in the playoff race while Bynum recovers.

The 76ers are at .500 (12-12) despite ranking 27th in the league in scoring and 20th in rebounding. Philadelphia is currently ninth in defense at 95.3 points allowed per game.

But the Sixers are suffering without a real scoring threat on the low block. Spencer Hawes is the top scoring big man on the squad right now, getting 8.5 points per game in about 22 minutes a night off the bench.

Instead, the offense is almost entirely generated on the perimeter right now, with Jrue Holiday leading the club with 18.4 points per game. Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young are getting right around 15 points a night while Jason Richardson and Nick Young are also averaging double figures.

But as one might expect, Philadelphia is getting crushed on the boards most nights. With a rebounding differential of -2.9, the Sixers rank in the bottom third of the league and their leading board man right now is Young at 7.3 a game.

Fortunately for the 76ers, the Eastern Conference is paper-thin when it comes to playoff contenders. With Charlotte, Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland and Washington basically out of contention already, Philadelphia is in the mix with Orlando, Boston, Indiana, Milwaukee and Brooklyn for the bottom four playoff spots in the East.

Bynum’s little outburst does beg the question, though: Did playing with Bryant stunt his growth as a player more than or less than his inability to stay healthy for extended periods?

 

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