Andrew Bynum's Return and 5 Other NBA Debuts Fans Are Thirsting To See

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2012

Andrew Bynum's Return and 5 Other NBA Debuts Fans Are Thirsting To See

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    The 2012-13 NBA season may be off to a roaring start for most, but for a handful of players, they've yet to set foot on the court for a single game thus far.

    The most disappointing of all absences may be that of Andrew Bynum, the Philadelphia 76ers' new potential superstar acquisition from the summer of 2012.

    After traveling to Germany in September for the same knee treatment that Kobe Bryant received, Bynum hasn't practiced or played in a game for the Sixers due to a bone bruise in his right knee. (It's reportedly unrelated to the knee procedure.) On Monday, reports surfaced that Bynum won't be able to resume "normal basketball activity" until at least Dec. 10, according to the AP. He may not see actual game action until as late as January. 

    Bynum isn't the only player that NBA fans want back on the court, however.

    Let's look at some of the 2012-13 debuts that we're still looking forward to.

Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics

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    The Boston Celtics offset the loss of Ray Allen in the summer of 2012 by adding shooting guards Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, but the team is still badly missing the presence of third-year guard Avery Bradley.

    Bradley played through Game 4 of the Celtics' 2012 Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, but he needed surgery to repair small tears in his left shoulder and missed the rest of the Celtics' playoff run.

    In July, the team announced that Bradley needed additional surgery, this time on his right shoulder, which would keep him out through at least training camp.

    By the end of September, Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted that Bradley was "nowhere near ready" to return, according to Instead, Rivers guessed it would be December or January before Bradley was able to return to the court.

    When healthy, Bradley has already emerged as one of the elite wing defenders in the NBA despite only having two years of experience under his belt. During the 2011-12 season, Bradley held opposing shooting guards to a per-48-minute PER of 7.6. (The league average is 15).

    Through six games, the Celtics have a point differential of minus-4.2 per game, allowing opponents to average 101 points per game against them.

    In short, Boston needs Bradley to get healthy ASAP to shore up their defense.

Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers

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    The Philadelphia 76ers knew when trading for Andrew Bynum that he had a checkered history with his knees, to put it lightly.

    In seven career seasons, Bynum's only played a full 82-game season once. He's endured surgeries on both his left and right knees since 2008, too.

    Bynum traveled to Germany in September to have the same Orthokine procedure on his knees that made Kobe Bryant reportedly feel years younger, but Bynum has been sidelined with a bone bruise in his right knee ever since.

    Once he makes his long-awaited debut for the Sixers, he'll give the team a legitimate offensive option in the half court. Paired with the Sixers' current success with transition offense, the addition of Bynum could elevate the Sixers to one of the elite Eastern Conference teams.

    Until then, the Sixers' goal is to simply stay afloat and hover somewhere around .500, making sure they don't cede too much ground in the Atlantic Division. Six games in with a 4-2 record—so far, so good.

Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Kevin Love helped Team USA win a gold medal in the London Olympics but broke his hand during the preseason reportedly doing knuckle push-ups, delaying his regular-season debut until at least December.

    When healthy, Love is one of the NBA's youngest superstars, making his absence that much more crippling for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    He averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds per game during the 2011-12 season and shot over 37 percent from three-point range, making him one of the more dynamic offensive players in the league.

    The Timberwolves have managed to stay the course without Love in the early going of the 2012-13 season, running out to a 4-2 record in their first six games.

    Before Love's injury, though, the T'Wolves had their sights set on the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season. They'll need Love to return by the first of the year to have any real shot at staying afloat in the Western Conference playoff race.

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

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    Of any player on this list, Derrick Rose likely faces the longest road to recovery after tearing the ACL in his left knee at the end of the Chicago Bulls' first 2012 playoff game.

    The 2011 league MVP has been the franchise cornerstone for the Bulls since being drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, averaging around 21 points, seven assists, four rebounds and one steal per game over his four-year career.

    Luckily for Chicago fans, the Bulls had plenty of experience without Rose in the 2011-12 season, as he missed 27 games while battling a litany of injuries. (The Bulls went 18-9 in those games.)

    The Bulls have hung their hat on defense since coach Tom Thibodeau arrived in 2010, and the 2012-13 season has been no different, even in the absence of Rose. The Bulls have rolled out to a 4-2 record in the first six games, holding opponents to 88.7 points per game (fourth-best in the league).

    Rose won't be back before February 2013 at the earliest, in all likelihood. If the Bulls can maintain at least a .500 record until he returns, they could be the low-seeded team in the Eastern Conference playoffs that all of the favorites hope to avoid in the first round.

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Ricky Rubio's rookie season in 2011-12 ended on March 9, 2012 when he tore the ACL in his left knee, just like Derrick Rose did a month-and-a-half later.

    Not only did the injury force Rubio to miss the rest of the 2011-12 season, it also forced him out of the 2012 London Olympics, causing him to miss the gold-medal rematch between Team USA and Spain.

    Before getting injured, Rubio was averaging 10.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game, suggesting that the considerable hype surrounding him as he entered the league was entirely justified.

    His sub-36 percent shooting average could certainly use some work in the upcoming season, but with a year of experience under his belt, there's no reason to expect Rubio's shooting percentage to decline any further.

    Rubio is expected to make his return in either December or January, according to the Timberwolves' most recently announced timeline, although the franchise will assuredly not rush Rubio to return before he's 100 percent ready.

    Once Rubio and Kevin Love make their way back into the lineup, the Wolves could be one of the West's most sneaky-dangerous teams in 2012-13.

Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks

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    New York Knicks fans may be the ones least excited for the return of Amar'e Stoudemire from a ruptured cyst behind his left knee based on how well Carmelo Anthony has been playing in the first few games of the 2012-13 season.

    The cyst, which was announced in late October, was initially supposed to sideline Stoudemire for only two to three weeks.

    However, after further examination, it was determined that Stoudemire would miss at least the first six weeks of the 2012-13 season, sources told's Chris Broussard.

    When Stoudemire does return from his injury, Knicks coach Mike Woodson will have to figure out a way to plug him into the lineup without disrupting Anthony's rhythm. Anthony stepped into Stoudemire's starting 4 spot and has thrived, opening the question of whether Stoudemire could be more valuable for the Knicks as their first big off the bench.

    However, Stoudemire's five-year, $100 million contract will likely make it difficult for Woodson to justify to Knicks ownership why they're paying $20 million per year for a bench player.

    The Knicks likely won't have to embrace this question until mid-December at the earliest, but Stoudemire's return is a major elephant in the room for the franchise.