This can't actually be happening.
The Philadelphia 76ers bet big on Bynum when they dealt away a franchise cornerstone in Andre Iguodala in exchange for his services, and they were supposed to place an even bigger wager on him this summer.
To the tune of nine figures.
But that second bet, that subsequent stake, may never be placed. Because Bynum's tenure in Philadelphia may be over before it even officially started.
According to Jason Wolf of The News Journal, certain structural evidence suggests that the 25-year-old center won't be able to return to the hardwood this season:
One internationally respected orthopedic surgeon, who is not involved with Bynum’s treatment and has not seen his MRIs, told The News Journal that all of the information that has been released by the player and the Sixers points to a likely diagnosis of osteochondritis dessicans lesions. The surgeon said that if this is the case, there’s a small chance that Bynum’s knees could heal sufficiently on their own in time for him to return for the playoffs this season, but called that scenario “wishing on a star.”
“While they can heal non-operatively, they can take a long time [four to six months] to heal, and in adult athletes, frequently they will require surgical intervention at some point if there isn’t adequate healing within the first several months of treatment,” the surgeon said.
At this point, "wow" is the only operative word that can be used to described what may be transpiring in Philadelphia.
Though setbacks have become nothing new for Bynum and the Sixers, this particular scenario would come as an unexpected blow. Even at their worst, Bynum's knees were supposed to extensively delay his debut in Philadelphia, not annihilate the notion completely.
But that's exactly what another knee surgery would do.
How are the Sixers supposed to invest $100 million in a product they have yet to see in action? How are they supposed to place the fate of the franchise in the hands of a player who doesn't have a knee strong enough to support the weight of it? How are they supposed to mortgage their entire future on an athlete that hasn't even proven he can be a reoccurring All-Star?
If Bynum is forced to undergo yet another form of season-ending knee surgery, the 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks he averaged per game last season would barely get him a bus ticket, let alone a new contract. The only thing he'll be signing in Philly after another surgery will be his tenure's death warrant, not a lucrative pact between he and the Sixers.
Should Philadelphia even consider latching onto Bynum long term, though, another trip under the knife wouldn't spell success for this pairing.
Say the Sixers throw caution to the wind like they essentially did when they acquired Bynum. What then?
Not only would they be nine figures worth of pot committed, but they would be gambling on Bynum's health, as well as his ability to even be a cornerstone.
Remember, the Los Angeles Lakers parted ways with the tumultuous center for plenty of reasons. There was his health to consider, but they dispatched him in favor of Dwight Howard and an equally questionable back.
Their decision ultimately went beyond the stat lines, amount of games played and the number of surgeries Bynum had and stretched into the realm of leadership and dependability. The center had proved he could put up All-Star caliber numbers when healthy, but had yet to prove he could emerge as a leader.
Which was also what this season was supposed to be about for the Sixers–finding out if Bynum was not only healthy enough, but mentally equipped enough to shoulder the burden of an entire franchise.
Courtesy of a pair of what are seemingly becoming degenerative knees, Bynum hasn't proved he's durable enough to even attempt to be a player Philadelphia can build around. To date, he has sat out of 149 regular season games out of a possible 569. That means he's spent more than 26 percent of his career on the shelf, a number that is only continuing to grow.
Again, how can the Sixers invest so much cash, place so much faith in an athlete who is available less than three-quarters of the time? Better yet, how are they supposed to do that knowing he's fresh off yet another surgery to fix what has become a perpetually present—essentially irreparable—injury?
They can't, and they won't.
Because this is now bigger than Bynum. Should he be forced to undergo yet another surgery, this now becomes a matter of survival not just for him, but the entire Sixers franchise.
"Our main concern is Andrew's health. Our main concern is big picture," general manager Tony DiLeo had said. "We want to have a long relationship with him."
Well, if the Sixers are truly looking at the "big picture" right now, they understand they're future is in jeopardy.
As is Bynum's potential to be a part of it.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 21st, 2012.