After what was hope for Andrew Bynum to appear this season, he has suffered yet another setback.
First reported by ESPN.com, the big man seemingly felt discomfort and swelling in his knee after just a few minutes of practice. While Bynum hinted at returning at some point this year,it is more than likely he will never don a Philadelphia 76ers uniform.
Prior to training camp this season, Bynum received the Orthokine treatment on his knees. The procedure involves extracting the patient's blood, before it is altered and reintroduced as a form of anti-inflammatory.
While the treatment sounds somewhat gruesome, it was worked wonders for players like Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bogut. However it does not always produce results, as additional recipients such as Brandon Roy or Greg Oden have yet to show improvement.
The result of the procedure on Bynum remains to be seen, not only because he hasn't played a single minute of professional basketball this season, but due to a plethora of other limitations.
After being kept away from physical activity for a few weeks, due to discomfort, it was revealed Bynum had in fact a bone bruise on his right knee. He infamously re-injured his left knee while bowling, and Bynum's situation has remained a pessimistic one.
The Sixers staff later reported Bynum's knees were in a worse state since the beginning of the season; in fact they are degenerating. The aforementioned Roy went through a similar predicament, to the extent that he was forced to retire after the 2010-11 season.
If Bynum's knees are on track to match what happened to Roy, the possibility of Philadelphia re-signing him should be minimal.
According to HoopsWorld, the 7'0" center is receiving $16.8 million this season. It is likely Bynum will command something similar in free agency, which will be fairly unrealistic considering a lack of evidence that he can still play.
Bynum seemingly put himself ahead of the team in a recent interview (via AP, h/t Brian Windhorst of ESPN) about his knees:
"I think being healthy is more important than everything else," he said. "If I am healthy, I'll get a deal. I have to be able to play and I need to get to the point with my body where I'm able to play, however long that takes."
While he's certainly within his rights to state such a thing, it is slightly disappointing to see Bynum put his contract ahead of the team. He makes no mention of saying "If I am healthy, I'll be able to help this team," instead opting to focus on his personal gain.
The fact remains that the Sixers cannot afford to pay Bynum close to $15 million, merely to be sidelined until he is healthy. His potential and upside are beginning to slide as the risk of injury, and the degeneration of his knees, become more and more apparent.
Bynum does not have a great track record of playing consistently, as he will miss 264 games in his career should he miss the entirety of this season. Considering that total is a little over three full NBA seasons of being stuck on the sidelines, the likelihood of Bynum suddenly becoming a steady contributor is doubtful.
To compare to another recipient of the Orthokine treatment in Oden, both players are on the same path of futility. Since being drafted in 2007, Oden has played the equivalent of a single season. Though both Bynum and Oden have dealt with knee problems, Bynum and Oden are in opposite directions in terms of specific injury prognosis. According to a report from Fox Sports' Sam Amico, Oden is planning on returning to the NBA and will likely sign with his next team sometime this summer
Philadelphia gambled on Bynum and simply lost. The Sixers knew their odds going in, and the risk was higher than the payoff. While it is a difficult pill to swallow, the team must relinquish itself from talks with Bynum and begin rebuilding.
With the emergence of Jrue Holiday as an All-Star this season, he must be the cornerstone of the franchise. A once-apparent combo of Holiday and Bynum would have been phenomenal, but the team cannot afford to place its future hopes on the latter's health.
Re-signing Bynum to a lesser deal would be preferred, but very unlikely given Bynum's attitude toward the situation. Like most players his size, big men are being paid for their size over skill.
He will ultimately be picked up by a struggling team, but it cannot be the Sixers. There is a plethora of names in free agency, such as Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson or J.J. Hickson, who would fill the team's void at center. Their track records are much better in terms of health, and would come at a fraction of what Bynum would seemingly demand.