These five games must come with a fairly obvious disclaimer, all because of the man pictured above. No, not because of a young Don King - though such a comparison may be understandable thanks to this player's haircut, or lack thereof - but rather center Andrew Bynum. Without a doubt, all Sixers fans eyes will be glued to the TV once he finally steps onto the court in a Philadelphia uniform and not a suit. The Bynum return offers Philly faithful what could be described as almost a second wind for the season. With the team flirting for a playoff spot (albeit while under .500) how could fans not be jazzed about the heralded center's debut? It could dramatically change their season and with the recent injury to Rajon Rondo really shake up the Atlantic Division. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet, and take a peek at this month's most intriguing match ups on the Sixers schedule.
The Sixers fell in their last tilt with the Pacers, the silver lining being Jrue Holiday was out of the lineup. Not surprisingly, Philadelphia got torched by PG George Hill, who was an assist shy of a triple-double (15-10-9 with two blocks and two steals to boot, ouch). I wouldn't expect a similar outing with Holiday on him, though, the Sixers may still find Evan Turner outmatched by the lanky and athletic Paul George, who put up 28 in their last go round.
This is simply a big game for the Sixers. If they want to head into the All-Star break with some momentum, they need to beat genuinely good teams (like the Pacers) at home as much as they can. On top of that, this game comes sandwiched between home games against bottom feeders Washington, Sacramento, Orlando, and Charlotte making it the second most challenging game left in what remains of their eight game-home stand.
Assuming Chris Paul will be back from his ailing knee this could prove to be the toughest game of the Sixers aforementioned eight-game home stretch. CP3 will provide a nice litmus test for Jrue Holiday's improvement this season as the player predominantly perceived to be the league's best point guard will command his full attention on both sides of the rock.
Even if Paul is not in the lineup Philadelphia will still have their hands full with the likes of Eric Bledsoe, Blake Griffin, Jamaal Crawford a co. What makes this game even more watchable is the fact that this will be the only time these two sides square off this year, allowing Sixers fans their first and only opportunity to watch the Blake Show for those obtuse to watching nationally televised games. (I don't know if these people actually exist.) More importantly, this could be a potential first game back for Andrew Bynum.
Of course a home game against the Legion of Doom, also known as the Miami Heat is a must watch game! This is a no brainer!
This Sixers crew is yet to match up against the Heat this season and will do so three more times before the playoffs, starting with this game. If Bynum is back by, this could prove to be a very interesting game. Do the Heat have the man power down low to contain him if he's feeling it? Could a Holiday-Bynum pick and roll barrage spell trouble for the defending champs defensively? It's not far fetched to think so.
But, of course, the Legion of Doom still have Lebron, who, in case you haven't noticed, is pretty good at that basketball game. I would not be stunned if the Sixers can pull off an upset here and genuinely give the Heat fits in their remaining games (if Bynum is healthy, obviously), but I don't think anyone would be even remotely stunned if the Heat wallop the Sixers.
Our grandchildren will look back on this game as the night hairstyles from two generations collided on the basketball court as Iman Shumpert and his impressive late 80s/early 90s flat top will duke it out with Andrew Bynum's wild 70s afro.
But there are other important aspects to this game outside of the clear hair-related showdown. If the Sixers hope to make a serious push toward the playoffs and at possibly getting a good seed, it is imperative they win division games likes this one.
The Sixers recently spanked the Knicks at home (after losing the first two game against them in early November) and it would go a long way in establishing themselves as a threat if they could knock off New York in Madison Square Garden. Oh, and as if this game didn't need any more fuel to the fire, it will be nationally televised on ESPN. This could be a great coming out party for the Bynum-Holiday Sixers, if they are up to the task.
This will be the second nationally televised game that Philly will be apart of in four days. This rumble taking place on TNT.
The biggest story line here will be the return of Derrick Rose and Andrew Bynum, who are both expected to be back and in good form from their respective knee injuries. This will once again provide Jrue Holiday a chance to show his worth against the league's elite point guards as Derrick Rose seeks to retain his dominance and improve the Bulls playoff seeding.
Once again, this is a big game because: 1) it is on the road in an always difficult to play in Chicago and 2) you must beat good teams to be a good team. (Crazy, right?)
Right now, the Sixers are a below .500 team sort of wandering their way through the season, which has not been kind to them of late (they are 4-9 so far in January). If they want to establish an identity and have a positive outlook for the future, which means keeping Bynum this offseason, they need to play well to end this season. A good, strong finish could make re-signing their blue chip center infinitely easier come this off season.