If you want to look at the positives for the Sixers coming out of the All-Star break, they are few and far between. For a team that limped into the All-Star break losing three of their last four, the last thing they needed was the news they received Tuesday.
On Tuesday, injured center Andrew Bynum addressed the media and changed his expected return date to the court yet again.
NJ.com's Jordan Raanan reported:
Even though the skepticism surrounding the return date of Bynum increases by the day, the key figures in the drama remain confident as February quickly disappears that it will eventually happen. They believe that Andrew Bynum, bad knees and all, will be seen in a Sixers jersey at some point before this so far disappointing season ends.
"I'll definitely be back sometime this year," Bynum said while sporting an interesting new hairdo Tuesday following an 80-minute workout at PCOM.
The injured big man couldn't pinpoint an exact date. He believes playing 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 is "around the corner," participating in a full practice is maybe a week or two away. Still, it's looking like the return date has been pushed back into March, best-case scenario.
With an unknown March return date for Bynum and the Sixers hoping for a late playoff push, trading for a replacement big is the biggest adjustment the Sixers have to make going into the final 31 games. Forward Thaddeus Young is apparently close to returning from the injured left hamstring he suffered on February 4 against the Magic, but who knows how effective he'll be when he returns to the lineup later this month.
Two players who have been surrounded by trade rumors in the past month are forward Evan Turner and center Spencer Hawes. Both have proven to be highly inconsistent players for Sixers this season, and their moments of weakness have overshadowed their moments of greatness.
Philly.com's John Mitchell reported that the Atlanta Hawks had contacted the Sixers with a deal centered around forward Josh Smith:
According to a pair of league sources with knowledge of the discussions, the Atlanta Hawks approached the Sixers seeking to acquire Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes in exchange for forward Josh Smith. Smith will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Bynum factors into any decisions about the team's future.
"So much is Andrew Bynum's health and what he is going to be able to do for us going down the road," Collins said. "But we have to be very careful where all of a sudden you are trying to make a deal for something. You can't trade for a free agent because you could give something up and they don't re-sign. Then you've borrowed them for 30 games."
In the short term, Smith would automatically add offense, defense and athleticism to the Sixers' depleted lineup. Smith averages 17.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 blocks for the Hawks starting at the power forward position. It would be interesting to see how coach Doug Collins would use Smith if he was indeed traded to the Sixers.
Thaddeus Young, who's started at the power forward position all season, has played admirably. Young averages 14.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.6 steals. Young's natural position was small forward growing up, but he has played mostly at power forward during his five-year stint in the NBA.
Smith has a better mid-range game than Young, which is typically something you look for from your small forward, but he's also an inch taller than Young and one of the best shot-blockers in the league—which is something you need in the post out of your power forward.
Either way, bringing in Smith is a huge upgrade over the enigmatic Evan Turner and soft-defending Spencer Hawes. The core of guard Jrue Holiday, Young, Smith and Bynum would bring new energy to the Sixers organization for the rest of the season.
The trade is still just the side story to what the Sixers need to happen the most: having a healthy Andrew Bynum return to the court as soon as possible.