The Inbounds: Tonight the part of “the man” will be played by Andrew Bynum

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At the introductory press conference for Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, Bynum told the fans and media the following in response to a question about the increased load he’s likely to bear next season.

“It’s going to be a lot more exciting and a lot more fun to know that everything’s going to be run through me.”

This is, at once, the most Bynum quote ever, and a surprising Bynum quote.

It’s not surprising because… Bynum has always been known to buck convention for candidness. This is an instance where the requisite response is “It’s not about me, it’s about my team. I just want to go out and help this team win a championship. And I know our guys, Jrue (Holiday), Evan (Turner), Thad (Young), all those guys are going to be there with me so we can take that next step together.” But instead, Bynum basically says “I’m sorry to interrupt, and I love Kobe, but this season is going to be the greatest Bynum season of all time!” This is what Bynum does. He blows off the conventional for the interesting, and for that, with some maturity that comes with getting older, he could turn into a truly fascinating character, as opposed to the bratty petulant child he has seemed at times the last few seasons.

It is surprising because… on top of the whole “star player basically saying  ‘the ball is mine and I own it'” facet, it’s a bit of a leap for Bynum. Bynum looking out for himself is not a shock. And he’s been known to complain about touches in the past (and guaranteed, if the ball doesn’t find him in the first five games, you’re going to hear it). But this is different. This is leadership in the alpha male model. That phrase gets tossed out a lot, but in a way, Bynum’s saying “I’m really excited about a greater amount of responsibility being placed on me.”

It’s also a pretty drastic change from what we’ve seen in the past from him as far as the mechanics of his work ethic go. Whether you think Bynum is a hustle junkie or a slacker, he’s never really been the type to go above and beyond. You can think his work ethic is “fine” or “completely good enough” but he’s never been accused of spending too much time in the gym or taking the game too seriously. This kind of quote comes with it a lot of confidence, but also an understanding that the Sixers wanted him to be “the man” and that means he has to play like it.

Now, this could wind up with Bynum thinking that being “the man” involves transition three-pointers. But it could also mean that he wants to embrace a workload and offensive usage rate that could propel him into the top tier of players in his league. If you throw out the injury concerns and presume he can adjust better to double-teams, Bynum has the independent ability to score at will, to be a top offensive player in this league.

A little secret is that Bynum’s offensive game is actually better than Dwight Howard’s. He has better footwork, better touch, and better versatility. Howard is a considerably better player than Bynum based on a lot of factors, but Bynum has the superior offensive skillset. He’s just never been asked to put into high gear. Now, that comes at a price, and managing his energy level so he has enough left to defend will be a challenge for Doug Collins, along with, you know, their respective attitudes.

IF Bynum really chooses to take on this kind of role, and the team falls in line, saying “This is our All-Star, the Bynum, and we shall not have any sub-All-Stars before him” then we could be in for something special. If the team tries to adopt a balanced offense, or if Bynum can’t handle the double-teams and his teammates can’t make opponents pay for implementing them, it could go down the tubes. There’s also somewhere in the middle. But the presser on Wednesday revealed if not a newer and more aggressive Bynum, then maybe one a bit more fitted to who he is. He’s not saddled with the legacy of the Lakers. He’s not being asked to hold up a lottery squad. He’s not trying to fit in with a plethora of talent, though the Sixers have some talent. There’s a good team behind him, a gap, and then Bynum. He can make his teammates better while also rising to be the best he’s been in his career. His exuberance at the presser, being closer to home than he’s ever played, a team that not only says it values him, but goes out of their way to show it, everything points to maybe a new chapter starting for Bynum, one where he exceeds even what he accomplished last season.

Of course, that’s what we say now, in the halcyon, happy days of August at pressers meant to make the fans happy. It’s a big round of hugs and handshakes for the Sixers braintrust. When the Celtics are sending two defenders to front and swarm, when the Nets are trapping the entry passer, when Marc Gasol is bodying up, it’s a different matter. But the Sixers wanted to make a big jump forward, to do something exciting, to kick off a new era.

Bynum is at least talking the talk, and for now, that’s enough to generate some excitement for the future.

Thunder’s offseason moves start here: Offer Russell Westbrook $220 million contract

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The narrative of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff loss to Houston — and frankly its entire season — was about how little help Russell Westbrook was given. Game 5 was the perfect example: The Thunder were +12 when Westbrook was on the court, but he rested for 6:07 and OKC was -18 in those minutes. The Thunder’s role players are young and many — for example, Enes Kanter — are very one dimensional, but that’s because their role was supposed to be much more narrow and defined. Then Kevin Durant left and players were asked to do things outside their comfort zones, or grow up fast, and it didn’t go that well.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has some work to do this summer to tweak that roster, make it more versatile, and design it to fit better around Westbrook (not to mention take some of the load off him).

But the first thing Presti has to do is keep Westbrook — and that means offering him a five-year, roughly $220 million extension. Royce Young if ESPN has the details on how that works.

After signing an extension last summer in the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook can sign another in the ballpark of $220 million over five years this summer. Westbrook is signed through the 2017-18 season, with a player option on the following year, but the Thunder would obviously like to have a longer commitment from their franchise player.

The expectation is that they will make the offer, but should Westbrook decline, all that talk of stabilizing the franchise would get a little more wobbly, and with only a year guaranteed, talk of trading him could spark again. It will certainly be alarming for the front office, especially after what it went through with Durant.

It’s hard to imagine Westbrook walking away from that money — it’s about $75 million more guaranteed and one more year than any other team can offer. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table, I don’t care how much you make in endorsements. (If Westbrook left, signed a max deal elsewhere for four years, then signed a max deal for that fifth year later, he still would get roughly $35 million less than signing with the Thunder now.) Once Westbrook is locked into place, Presti can start looking to reshape the Thunder roster.

But if Westbrook pauses and doesn’t sign, the NBA rumor mill will be moving at the speed of Westbrook in transition. The Thunder wouldn’t want to lose Durant and Westbrook for nothing, it would set their rebuilding process way back, so Presti would have to consider trades. However, because Westbrook is a free agent in 2018, he would almost have a no-trade clause — no team is going to give up much to get him without an under-the-table understanding he would re-sign in that city.

Expect Westbrook to agree to the extension in OKC. Because he likes the team — remember, he signed that extension last summer (which got him a healthy pay raise) — and because it would make him the highest-paid player in the NBA, and that would feed his ego (and pocketbook).

Once he does, Presti’s real work begins.

After tough loss, Chris Paul wasn’t having any of reporter’s inane question

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LOS ANGELES — The Clippers are feeling a lot of pressure these playoffs, and they have suffered a couple tough losses at home now. That can lead to some interesting postgame press conferences, something we’ve already seen this series from Doc Rivers.

Tuesday it was Chris Paul‘s turn.

The Clippers had just dropped Game 5 at home and are staring a 3-2 deficit series deficit in the face, and they have to win those two games without the injured Blake Griffin. That’s when this exchange happened.

I was in the room with this happened. Yes, there were a lot of eye rolls when the question was asked.

This was not a rookie reporter, it was a guy who gets sound for local radio stations and has been a regular at Staples Center games for years. He knew what he wanted, a fairly standard quote about how the Clippers just need to take it one game at a time but they are confident they will be back, that they can still win the series. We have all heard it before, the kind of generic crap that is all over columns about the game and talk radio. The reporter served up the softball and, frankly, most nights savvy players just give the reporter the quote they want and move on.

Tuesday Paul was having none of it. Which led to a pretty amusing exchange, especially with the follow up that was not going anywhere.

That said, I do not know one reporter worth his or her salt who has not asked a question they regret, and been called out for it. Sometimes we get called out for good questions we do not regret. It is part of the gig.

Rajon Rondo says he will not play in Game 5, doesn’t sound optimistic about quick return

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He tried. Rajon Rondo has seen the Chicago Bulls struggle the last two games without him as a strong defender and stabilizing influence at point guard — something nobody thought Rondo would be mid-season — and he wanted to get back on the court for Game 5 against the Celtics. He took some steps toward getting ready to play.

But it’s not happening, Rondo said at shootaround Wednesday. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

And it’s not just the fractured thumb.

If the Bulls are going to win this series, they are going to have to do it without Rondo.

Isaiah Canaan will get the start in Game 5, and he will set a lot of screens in a 1/3 pick-and-roll to try and get Isaiah Thomas switched on to Jimmy Butler. Canaan can do that. He had fallen way out of the rotation and is really a two-guard not a point, but with the terrible play of Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams, coach Fred Hoiberg took a gamble. It worked, at least for one game. Canaan with the other four Bulls starters — Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic, and Robin Lopez — were +12 in 11 minutes together in Game 4, and played well on both ends of the court. But Canaan was buried on the bench for a reason, he shot 36.4 percent on the season, 26.6 percent from three, and he’s not a great defender. The Celtics will be prepared for him in Game 5.

Hoiberg’s best option is to lean on a no point guard lineup when it matters most, with three wings who can handle the ball in Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and probably Denzel Valentine. That could be a challenging defensive lineup and Boston will try to get the lightning quick Isaiah Thomas switched onto Wade or Valentine (neither of which can guard him). Also, this lineup would be draining and put a big load on Butler, but he could handle it for critical stretches of the game.

Cleveland OKs last chunk of financing to upgrade Cavs’ arena

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland officials have committed the final chunk of financing for $140 million in upgrades planned at the Cavaliers’ home arena.

The makeover of Quicken Loans Arena would include more space for dining and gathering.

The cost of renovations to the concert and sports venue is being split by the city, the team, Cuyahoga County, and a convention and visitors bureau. The final total is expected to be roughly double the initial $140 million price tag, mostly because of interest over the next two decades.

Cleveland’s share is an estimated $88 million over 11 years, starting in 2024. Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on that Tuesday.

The county already approved the deal and agreed to sell bonds for the project.

The team committed to extend its lease at the arena to 2034. It is expected the team will make a bid to host the NBA All-Star game once renovations are complete.