76ers center Andrew Bynum is a long way from 'all good'

Sixers center Andrew Bynum. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Sixers center Andrew Bynum. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 23, 2013

Andrew Bynum delivered the weekly update on his knees before Monday's game against San Antonio and - here's a bad sign - he asked whether he could sit down to do so.

Bynum is somewhere along a six-step program designed to put him in a 76ers uniform this season. He hasn't run yet, or jumped or made a cut, but he is able to stand on the court at shootarounds for a little while and make standstill shots and some light catch-and-shoot attempts.

"I don't know what step I'm at right now," Bynum said.

Here's a hint, big guy. It ain't five.

The organization and Bynum hope that he can make his debut around the all-star break, which is in mid-February. That would be the best-case scenario for the team and for the player. With a 30-game look, the Sixers would be able to figure out whether they should attempt to sign Bynum, who becomes a free agent after the season, to a contract extension. And, for his part, Bynum would showcase himself for that next contract, either here or somewhere else.

"My knees feel good. I'm not feeling any pain. It's all good," Bynum said.

No, it really isn't. In fact, this is a long way from all good.

The Sixers organization, meanwhile, is treating the situation with little more than a shrug. What's a basketball team to do?

One suggestion would be to do something, almost anything at all, because the product on the floor at the moment is mostly terrible and - guess what? - Bynum might not be coming back. Not Feb. 15. Not March 1. Not the 12th of Never.

The guy hurt himself bowling. You think he's not going to hurt himself trying to practice basketball at an NBA level? He can't even run on a standard treadmill, but uses (when it is working, which isn't often, according to Bynum) an anti-gravity treadmill the Sixers acquired for him. Anti-gravity treadmills were invented so astronauts could replicate exercise in space, and if you've seen the helmet Bynum is wearing around these days, it makes a little more sense.

What doesn't make sense, however, is believing that Bynum will progress all the way to step six without more setbacks. What also doesn't make sense is letting the team and the season slip away because, woe is us, we don't have our center.

"Sure, I'm concerned," coach Doug Collins said after the Spurs came back to take a 90-85 win over the Sixers. "We're seven games below .500, and you've got to get to .500 if you want to make the playoffs. But this team would not react well to extra pressure. If I told them, 'Guys, time's running out here,' it wouldn't be pretty."

Dealing with a team that is fragile mentally and no great shakes physically, Collins has no choice except to keep coaching and hope for the best. The front office has some other options, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to explore a few of them before the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

It might be too late by then to salvage the season, but the Sixers should know by then when Bynum will be ready (never) and they should start to pivot the organization toward the future. Instead, everyone simply waits.

"You want to see the team you put together on the court," general manager Tony DiLeo said. "It's frustrating, and Andrew's frustrated, too. But there are still a lot of things we don't know."

The organization has its own narrative for the whole situation, and it begins and ends with the assertion that the Bynum trade was a good one even if he never plays a minute. The trade got Andre Iguodala and his salary out of the way and, because Bynum is about to become a free agent, the Sixers will either get a great center from the deal or a lot of salary-cap space to go out and find another one.

Unfortunately, others as good as a healthy Bynum won't be available. There also is no guarantee that the top free agents will look at the Sixers and decide they want to play here.

The trade was a good one when it was made, and there is no denying that. It is getting worse by the day, though, and will get a lot worse when Bynum tries to run side-to-side.

That's no one's fault, and it seems the team's only desire at the moment is to make sure everyone knows that.

Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com, or follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

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