When the team traded away perennial All-Star Andre Iguodala in order to obtain Andrew Bynum, they were taking a risk. They were taking plenty of risks, actually.
Philadelphia was betting that the 25-year-old Bynum, who was fresh off his first All-Star appearance, was going to remain healthy enough to make a lasting impact. It was also betting that he would be able to serve as the cornerstone for the franchise's future, one that would lead it back to title contention.
Thus far, the Sixers—and Bynum—have come up empty. What was once considered a minor bump in the road has now become a slew of colossal setbacks.
Bynum has yet to grace the hardwood this season, and after a number of vague, bordering on feckless, explanations, it has become clear that isn't going to change anytime soon. In fact, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reports that the big man is not only out indefinitely, but that the Sixers have no idea whether he'll even play for them at all:
Saying Andrew Bynum's knees "are not the same" as when they traded for him in August, the Philadelphia 76ers are now not sure when Bynum will be able to play for them -- if he plays for them at all.
Two weeks after the team announced they hoped Bynum would be cleared to return to practice on Dec. 10, Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo said Saturday the team no longer has any timeline for Bynum to return.
"Bottom line is Andrew is out indefinitely," DiLeo said before the Sixers played the Oklahoma City Thunder. "There are no timelines; we just have to wait and see how he reacts."
With the news that there is absolutely no discernible timetable for Bynum's return, the negative feelings continued in Philadelphia. At least when there was a chance for the center to return to action upon the New Year's inception, there was hope; there was a light at the end of what has become a perpetually caliginous tunnel.
Now, however, we are being led to believe that it will be a miracle if we see Bynum suit up at all this season. By extension, that also means it will be a miracle if we see Bynum suit up for the Sixers ever.
Clearly, Philadelphia is still hoping that the Bynum experiment doesn't prove fruitless. Prolific centers are hard to find, and if the behemoth can begin to prove his worth by season's end, the team would likely jump at the chance to re-sign him.
But while there remains a chance that Bynum could return to action and showcase his abilities, the bulk of the damage has already been done.
The Sixers cannot afford to commit to Bynum long term. Regardless of whether he plays this season, and regardless of how well he executes if he does, Philadelphia is in no position to take any more risks. Not on him.
How can the team throw $100 million his way this summer, when his knees have done nothing but crumble under the weight of expectations? How can the Sixers mortgage even more of their future on a big man who has spent more than 25 percent of his career watching from sidelines? How can they, in good conscience, commit to the advancement of uncertainty?
How can this team expect Bynum's knees to carry them to greatness when they cannot even support his weight at a bowling alley?
They can't, they won't and they shouldn't.
Philadelphia is in no position to take any further risk. It already wagered a cornerstone in Iguodala against the deficient structure that is Bynum's knees and lost. There's no reason to add any more insult to injury.
Without Bynum on the payroll, the Sixers have more than $12 million to play with this summer. That likely won't be enough to buy them the franchise cornerstone their absent big men was supposed to be, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, because Bynum hasn't proved to be much of anything.
Since this summer's blockbuster trade, the Sixers have experienced nothing but turmoil. What was supposed to be a move that would place this franchise amongst the best in the league has now endangered its very being as a relevant entity.
Yet it doesn't have to be like this much longer. Philadelphia can still save face, and in the process, preserve its future.
All it's going to take is an admittance that this venture is a wash, that the only thing left to salvage is the cap space the team will gain by parting ways with Bynum.
Yes, it's difficult to imagine the Sixers having traded Iguodala away for nothing and the "what could have been factor" certainly comes into play here. But so does the "what should have never been" factor.
Which is exactly what the Sixers will be left to contemplate should they opt to do the unthinkable, to execute the reprehensible and commit any more of themselves to the ambivalence of one Andrew Bynum.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 26th, 2012.