During the 2012 NBA offseason, the Philadelphia 76ers emerged as a player in the Dwight Howard trade saga. Many in Philadelphia were overwhelmed with anticipation over the prospect of landing their first dominant force in the paint since Dikembe Mutombo.
The two-time NBA champion Bynum had played a key role in the Los Angeles Lakers' plan for the future. When the opportunity arose to acquire D-12, however, L.A. opted to part ways with the progressing-to-elite Bynum.
That development has long been stunted, but the Sixers appeared to have missed out on why. Unfortunately for those in need of a reminder, this offseason has offered insight into just that.
Andrew Bynum can't stay healthy.
With the burden of an NBA franchise's success placed upon his broad shoulders, Bynum has no time to waste. Should he fail to reach full health and lead the Sixers to legitimate postseason success, the seven-year veteran will learn what it's like to play without the media safety blankets of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Bynum will become the target of a vicious sports city's criticism. He will also learn that, as a franchise player, you have everything to gain.
And even more to lose.
Health Remains a Question
According to a report via Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com, the 76ers will continue to hold Bynum out of basketball-related activities. This comes after the All-Star missed all seven of the team's preseason games.
Until he's finally reached 100 percent, don't expect to see him during the regular season, either.
General manager Tony DiLeo told the large media contingent on hand for what the Sixers had hoped would be Bynum’s first practice that Bynum is still experiencing discomfort in his right knee and won’t participate “in any basketball-related activities until he is pain-free.” It’s unclear when that will be.
“I think pain and swelling are indications of what’s going on,” [Andrew] Bynum said. “I don’t feel pressure, but psychologically it stinks. It’s tough. I want to come in and help out.”
“He is improving,” [general manager Tony] DiLeo said. “It’s nothing new. It’s just not completely healed. It’s our understanding that when this heals, it will be over.”
“I have no idea,” [head coach Doug] Collins said. “It’s all hypothetical. We’re not going to look over at (Bynum as) a lifeline. If this team feels like we can’t win without him, we won’t win.”
This places Bynum and the 76ers' future in doubt. As a result, any shortcomings that the franchise withstands will be attributed directly to Bynum's inability to perform up to standards.
Or in this case, his inability to perform at all.
Free Agent in 2012-13
Fans and front office executives of the Philadelphia 76ers appear to be under the impression that Andrew Bynum will be a member of the team for the long-term. The question is, what would happen if Bynum were to sign elsewhere once he becomes a free agent this summer?
Even worse for Bynum would be an alternate ending: What if the Sixers choose not to re-sign the big man due to concerns over his injuries?
As a dominant force at a dying position, Bynum will have a market come free agency. Although many teams are going small, having an elite center is the perfect way to control the pace of a game.
The question is, how many teams will be interested in Bynum with his mixture of injuries and immaturity? Chances are, not quite as many as one would be inclined to believe.
Will the Sixers be one of the few who are?
On Par with D-12 or Failing
When you're referred to as the best player at your position, it implies that you are outplaying your peers. When you are traded for the one player people compare you to, it becomes all the more imperative that you outperform your competition.
Such is life for Andrew Bynum with counterpart Dwight Howard.
Although Bynum has done nothing to suggest he is a better player than Howard, he was traded for him. He also has scattered beliefs that he is the better player, due to his sound fundamentals and back-to-the-basket style.
To solidify his status as the better player, Bynum must match D-12 step-for-step this season. Even if being the "better" player is of little importance to him, Bynum must still step up in this way for the sake of the trade.
If he fails, then he has failed the 76ers. They didn't trade franchise player Andre Iguodala for someone that will be the second-best.
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