No shortage of disappointment in Bynum deal

ASSOCIATED PRESS Dwight Howard seems to have worn out his welcome after only one season with the Lakers.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Dwight Howard seems to have worn out his welcome after only one season with the Lakers.
Posted: May 05, 2013

TELL ME when this sounds familiar:

Cut your losses. He doesn't really want to play here. He's not a leader. The franchise would be better off not re-signing him as a free agent and just concentrating on building for the future instead.

If I were talking about Philadelphia, it would be easy to identify such thoughts with respect to crestfallen 76ers center Andrew Bynum, whose disastrous 2012-13 season sank the Sixers the way the iceberg sank the Titanic.

But for those of you who think the Los Angeles Lakers pulled a fast one on the Sixers when they sent Bynum and his degenerative knees to South Philadelphia last August in a blockbuster four-team trade, there is a bit of consolation in the fact that things aren't exactly working out well in "Tinseltown" either.

The feelings to let the door hit All-Star center Dwight Howard on his way out of Los Angeles might not be as strong as the ones for Bynum in Philadelphia, but there are those who say Howard's one-season tenure in LA has been just as disastrous.

Now, considering Howard played 76 regular-season and four playoff games, compared with zero games for Bynum, the Lakers at least got something for their effort, but in a lot of ways, Howard's failure was a bigger disappointment.

Although Bynum had played a full season in 2012, the Sixers knew they were taking a gamble on him and his history of knee problems. They also knew he had a flaky personality that might not translate to his being a positive face of the franchise.

The Sixers knew there was always some degree of risk in turning the franchise over to Bynum.

The Lakers, on the other hand, thought they had hit a grand slam with the acquisition of Howard - a seven-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

For the price of Bynum and deep reserves Josh McRoberts and Christian Enyenga, the Lakers got a player who could not only bring them an immediate championship, but also be the transition linchpin that would move the franchise forward after the Kobe Bryant era ended.

Now, after the Lakers were unceremoniously swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs, a lot of folks in Los Angeles are debating whether it would be best for the Lakers to just let Howard go to whatever free-agency destination he desires.

Howard's last act in a Lakers uniform was getting ejected in the Game 4 loss to San Antonio, a move largely viewed as his intentionally quitting on his team.

"I think I handled some situations good, some situations bad," Howard said. "It's a growing process."

That's not exactly the kind of insecure statement you want to hear from an 8-year veteran in whom you are considering investing $118 million.

It's not Bynum flamenco dancing in Madrid a few weeks after knee surgery, but it gives you reason for concern.

Being a Laker in Los Angeles is like being a Yankee in New York. It's comes with a higher level of scrutiny and responsibility, which some athletes, no matter how talented, cannot handle.

Lakers fans have legitimate concerns that Howard might be one of those guys.

It's quite remarkable how this trade has devolved. On paper, it was one of the biggest blockbuster transitions in recent memory. It was a deal that moved the top two centers in the NBA and was supposed to elevate both the Sixers and Lakers into championship contenders.

Now, if this season's statistics of former Sixer and second-year center Nikola Vucevic (13.1 points, 11.9 rebounds) are legitimate indicators of his career trek, the Orlando Magic could end up having the best big man of the bunch.

Even the Denver Nuggets, who got Sixers All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala, in the deal, have to feel a bit disappointed. The Nuggets won 57 regular-season games, but they were bumped out of the first round of the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 years.

That the Lakers and Sixers would find themselves in the same unenviable position was inconceivable in August.

Both must decide whether they want to shell out big money to a player to whom they've anchored their short- and long-term future but might not be up to the responsibility that comes with that.

Odds are, the Lakers and Howard will patch up their differences over the additional $40 million he can make by re-signing with them.

At least the Lakers know that Howard actually can get on the court. He might not have the intestinal fortitude to be a Lakers franchise center like Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Shaquille O'Neal, but he will still give you elite scoring, rebounding and defense that you can work with.

The Sixers have no guarantees with Bynum. They would have to make a blind commitment to him, not knowing whether he'd be healthy enough to play more than 35 games in a season.

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Maybe that's why a trade that looked so great for both the Lakers and Sixers hasn't worked out for either of them.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

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