When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers, there were two emotions that fans and the organization collectively experienced. One was the understandable optimism surrounding Bynum's elite abilities, while the other was a fear in reference to his history of injuries.
As the fear evolves into a reality, memories of past players come into retrospective view. Plain and simple, the Sixers cannot afford to make Bynum their next Elton Brand.
For those unfamiliar with Brand's career with Philadelphia, the 76ers signed the former Duke Blue Devil in July of 2008 to a five-year, $82 million deal (via ESPN). At that time, Brand had posted career averages of 20.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in nine seasons.
Brand had also missed 123 games in that time, including 74 in the year prior to his signing with Philadelphia (via ESPN).
Bynum, meanwhile, is coming off of a season in which he averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. He too had missed a significant amount of time due to injury, failing to compete into 166 games during his seven-year Lakers career.
Even still, the Sixers began the process of repeating their past mistakes. A process they must abandon before it's too late.
Been Here Before
During his first year in Philadelphia, Elton Brand missed 53 games due to season-ending surgery on a separated shoulder (via ESPN). Although he'd only miss 13 games over the next three seasons with the Sixers, the damage was done.
Brand would never be the same player again.
In what appears to be a terrible case of deja vu, Bynum has yet to play a game in a Sixers uniform during the 2012-13 NBA season. The debacle started when Bynum received a "routine" knee injection and subsequently rested throughout the duration of the preseason (via CSN Philly).
Even still, he was expected to return to action come the regular season.
Since then, Bynum has faced a series of setbacks. This has led to a delay in his return and the projection that he will return during either December or January (via NBA.com).
Unfortunately, Bynum sustained structural damage to his already-injured knees while bowling (via ESPN). The latest update projects Bynum to miss the entirety of the 2012-13 NBA regular season (via Delaware Online).
First Hand Account
In an interview with Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com, Brand spoke on the 76ers' current situation with Bynum. The former team leader spoke on the similarities between the two player's unfortunate careers with the team, thus offering a first-hand look at what the Sixers are experiencing.
For those in need of a boost in confidence, Brand offers a vote in Bynum's favor.
“I definitely came here with high aspirations similar to Bynum and being hurt,” Brand said at the Mavericks’ morning shootaround Tuesday. “It’s tough. You’ve got to keep grinding.
“I think it’ll turn out well for the city and the fans. Hopefully he can get out there and play — maybe not this season but next season—and add his low-post presence with all those shooters that they have.”
As kind as it is for Brand to offer his support for the embattled Bynum, it doesn't change the fact that Bynum's history of knee injuries may forever linger. After all, we haven't heard the end of the injury discussions since he first sustained a partially dislocated left kneecap in 2006 (via ESPN).
Although the Sixers were built around Bynum, can they really afford to risk it all on yet another injury-prone frontcourt player? No matter how promising Bynum's upside may be, they cannot take the chance.
Bynum a Free Agent
Andrew Bynum is an immensely talented player with the upside to become the best center in the NBA. That said, he has also spent seven NBA season battling injuries and failing to remain on the court.
With Bynum becoming a free agent after this season, the Sixers cannot afford to reward yet another injury-prone player with a max contract. Not if Bynum continues to miss playing time.
Bynum faced these very concerns while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. The team ultimately gave up on the player they placed their faith in when no one else would.
The result was their trading for an equally as talented but far less injury-stricken Dwight Howard.
Although the 76ers would be a much better team with Bynum in the rotation, they cannot afford to risk handing him a max contract. Not when the risk of injury is just as dangerous as the man whom they just utilized their amnesty clause on in Elton Brand (via ESPN Dallas).
To think, we haven't even touched on the questions surrounding his effort.