For 76ers, business as usual means no Andrew Bynum

Center Andrew Bynum was the 76ers' big offseason acquisition. But sore knees have prevented him from helping the team.
Center Andrew Bynum was the 76ers' big offseason acquisition. But sore knees have prevented him from helping the team. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: November 15, 2012

The other players on the 76ers say they don't really miss center Andrew Bynum yet, not in a basketball sense, because that would be like missing the suit you never wore.

"We've never really played with him, so every night we go out and this is the team we've got," said Spencer Hawes. "As much as we might look forward to him coming back, he's someone we haven't played with yet. The team we have is what we go with now."

Linguistically, it might not be possible for a player to "come back" before he arrives, but Bynum is attempting that difficult leap of tenses. In fact, all leaps are difficult for Bynum, whose bad knees have prevented him from playing, practicing, and, for another two weeks, even stepping on a zero-gravity treadmill.

At the most optimistic, it will be January before Bynum actually can play, but the Sixers organization acknowledges that everything is a guess. The front office doesn't know, the doctors don't know, and Bynum doesn't know.

His recovery from a bone bruise suffered in a summer workout is what is delaying the process now, according to the team. Not the procedure he underwent in Germany and not the follow-up lube job in October. The process is slow, but being deliberate is the right course, and we'll give you another update in a month or so - that's pretty much how the Sixers are spinning this thing.

That's fine, but at some point the front office will have to fess up and say that it expected risk with Bynum, but also expected to see him on the court. What has happened so far was not part of the plan.

The consequences of that have not been realized yet, because the Sixers, who have some serious on-court issues, are 4-3 this season. They live on jump shots, and die on turnovers and poor defense, but so far the living is one game above .500 on the dying.

"I don't think we've underachieved," coach Doug Collins said after practice Tuesday. "Not when I look at all that's happened."

In remaking the team around the anticipated presence of Bynum, the Sixers lost their best defender, Andre Iguodala, in the trade, then used the onetime amnesty to divest themselves of the contract of power forward Elton Brand.

If the 7-foot Bynum were playing - presenting an enormous basket presence on offense and defense - the Sixers would be missing neither the defense of Iguodala nor the physicality of Brand. As it is, they are missing both.

Collins used Thaddeus Young at the center position for a large percentage of Monday's loss to Milwaukee. He wanted to play small and quick, but the strategy was also an acknowledgment that centers Hawes and Lavoy Allen aren't quite filling the shadow that Bynum's absence left under the basket.

"We've got to get more consistent, better games from Spencer and Lavoy. That's just the truth," Collins said.

The coach worries that the continuing bad news concerning Bynum's condition will have an effect on the other players, all of whom were excited about playing with Bynum, but all of whom now face another two months of keeping it glued together without him.

"We knew coming into it that we weren't sure when he would come back," Allen said. "With Bynum out, I have to carry a bigger responsibility on the team. I'm struggling a little bit in the beginning, but my teammates are behind me and will help me get back into it."

It will remain true that the Sixers did the right thing by turning the page on their previous roster and rolling the dice with Bynum. At worst, they waste one season and get salary-cap space for next year. At best, Bynum gets on the court eventually and plays well. In the interim, Collins coaches the players he has, and tries not to allude to the one he doesn't.

"I don't want our guys to feel I can't wait for [Bynum] to get back or whatever. We've played some good basketball and I'm not disappointed," Collins said. "But the preseason looked a lot prettier . . . Now it gets down to teams scheming and it gets tougher."

He knows how tough it might get as the wait continues for the suit that remains on the rack. Maybe they never really wore it, but it sure looks good hanging there.


Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com. Follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

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