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.

Report: Cavaliers not willing to put Nets pick in potential trade packages

Associated Press
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When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving to Boston last summer — at Irving’s request — they got something Danny Ainge had held onto for years: The Brooklyn Nets 2018 unprotected first round pick.

From the first moment the Cavaliers got the pick there was speculation they might flip it to get LeBron James more help to chase a title this season (and then, ideally, get him to re-sign with the team next summer). Yet, every utterance from the Cavaliers front office on and off the record was that the pick was untouchable. Consider it LeBron insurance should he leave, and if he stays they can add some good young depth.

Now approaching a third of the way into the NBA season, with the Cavaliers looking good but a clear step behind Golden State or Houston (and with Brooklyn playing better than anyone expected), has their position on the pick changed? No, reports Sean Deveney at The Sporting News.

Nearly two months into the season, circumstances have changed for the Cavaliers, but according to league executives, one thing that has not changed has been Cleveland’s unwillingness to part with that Nets’ pick, even as Brooklyn has exceeded expectations, thus dinging the value of the pick.

“They would be open to a deal by all indications,” one general manager told Sporting News. “But they’re not talking about that pick. That’s the Plan B for the LeBron stuff and from what I know, they don’t want to budge on it.”

It’s an interesting team building philosophical debate for the Cavaliers: When you have a reasonable shot at a title is it better to go all in for the big prize, or do they need to think about what is next, especially with LeBron’s future unsure? (Cleveland is not a title favorite, however, they are still the favorite to come out of the East in the playoffs, and if the Cavs reach the Finals they have a puncher’s chance at least.)

The Cavaliers seem to be leaning toward keeping the pick and thinking a little about the future. The Cavaliers do have their own first round pick — which will land in the mid- to late 20s — to potentially thrown in a trade. It’s a first-round pick, if not a terribly valuable one.

On top of this, just how good the Nets have been must factor into the Cavaliers’ decision. If the season ended today, the Nets pick would be 10th heading into the lottery (which has a 1.1 percent chance of jumping up to the top pick, a 4 percent chance of jumping up to the top three picks, and an 87 percent chance of staying 10th). On our recent podcast looking ahead at the draft, NBC’s Rob Dauster said what a lot of scouts have said: After about player 8, there is a drop off. If the scrappy Nets keep playing this well as the trade deadline approaches, do the Cavaliers change their calculus?

The Cavaliers have reportedly reached out to teams about big men — the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan (available), the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol (the team says not available) — but it’s hard to imagine the Cavs getting an impact player that can help them get closer to another title without throwing in the Brooklyn pick. The Clippers aren’t going to take Tristan Thompson and the Cavs pick for Jordan, they will need more.

This is going to be an interesting trade deadline, and Cavaliers are going to be in the middle of it all.

Adam Silver is honest: NFL more likely to expand to Europe than NBA

Associated Press
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Basketball is a much bigger sport in Europe than American football (not to be confused with the futball that rules European sports).

However, in reality, the NFL is far more likely to put a team in London than the NBA. Logistics is why, and why the NBA is much more strongly considering a team in Mexico City (there will be a D-League in the Mexican capital within a season or two).

Adam Silver addressed the NFL’s scheduling advantages for a London team, speaking to Marc Stein of the New York Times.

For the NBA teams closest to London — Northeast teams such as the Knicks or Celtics — the flight time from their cities to London or Mexico City are about the same (a little over six hours). However, for a team such as Miami it is just a little over 3:30 to Mexico City and nearly five hours more than that to London. And as you move West and get to teams from Los Angeles or Denver — not to mention the three teams in Texas — the trip to Mexico City is less than a cross-country flight to play those East Coast teams.

I could see the NBA putting an All-Star Game in London someday, but even that would require a longer break around the showcase game than exists now.

I’m not about to speculate how an NFL team would draw in London, if they could sell out the required luxury boxes and expensive seats, or if they could help broaden the league’s shrinking television audience. But it makes a lot more sense for that league to explore the idea than it does the NBA.

Magic Johnson: Lakers might save cap space for 2019

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LeBron James seems to be tempering expectations of him signing with the Lakers.

Lakers president Magic Johnson – who has hyped signing two max free agents this summer – is doing the same.

Johnson on Spectrum SportsNet , as transcribed by Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation.

“I feel really good about it. Now, we have cap space for probably two max guys, but that’s not to say we’ll use both of them. We want to if we can, but we have a Plan A and we have Plan B. Say we only get one of those guys, then we’ll make a decision on not to use the cap space. We can do that and save it for the class that’s coming the next year. We’re not going to give money away just because we have the cap space. I’m not about that. If the guy can’t really take our team to another level, and we see what Kyrie Irving has done for the Boston Celtics. Put him with that young talent the Celtics have, and they’ve taken off. We feel the same thing can happen for the Lakers. If we get the right free agent, that guy can take our young talent to a whole ‘nother level.”

I don’t think this will be deemed tampering, though the league’s arbitrary enforcement leaves it questionable. But I’m surprised Johnson – who already played a role in the Lakers getting a $500,000 tampering fine – discussed Irving while suggesting the Lakers leave money available for 2019, when Irving will likely become a free agent. That’s just asking for trouble.

To the substance of Johnson’s comments, no, the Lakers won’t have double max cap space next summer. Not without other moves that will reduce their positive assets.

And rolling over cap space isn’t so simple. If the Lakers sign one max free agent, his 2019-20 salary will cut into 2019 cap space. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng and Kyle Kuzma are collectively due a raise of $5,895,550 from 2018-19 to 2019-20. Re-signing Julius Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and/or Brook Lopez to multi-year deals would eat into 2019 cap space. It might not be possible to keep those players without multi-year guarantees, and losing them would hurt the team as it tries to impress free agents through quality play.

The Lakers shouldn’t spend just to spend this summer. But delaying would come with complications, too.

Joel Embiid takes blame for Sam Hinkie leaving 76ers

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In his letter resigning from the 76ers, Sam Hinkie wrote:

You can be wrong for the right reasons. This may well prove to be Joel Embiid.

Embiid never played for Philadelphia while Hinkie ran the team, sitting out his first two pro seasons due to injury. Then, Hinkie got ousted and Embiid got healthy. Now, Embiid – arguably the NBA’s best center – is leading the resurgent 76ers, and Hinkie is left to subtweet the franchise.

Embiid, in a Q&A with David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Me: Sam Hinkie drafted you. Do you keep in touch with him, call, text?

JE: Yeah, we text sometimes. We talk to each other sometimes. I mean, that’s the guy that drafted me, and he made sure he put everything in place so I could get healthy. And I got healthy and I got back on the court. And I feel like he basically kind of lost his job because of me, because I missed two years. So I feel like I owe him a lot. Yeah, we talk. We talk sometimes.

Hinkie’s patience in a long-term plan allowed Embiid to wait as long as necessary to play. (It also might have enabled Embiid to not take his rehab seriously enough.)

So, I get where Embiid is coming from.

But Hinkie knew what he was getting into when he drafted Embiid, who fell to the No. 3 pick in part due to injury concerns. The 76ers signed off on Hinkie’s Process then lost their appetite for the plan amid all the losing. It’s not Embiid’s fault Hinkie couldn’t persuade people to follow his direction. It’s not Embiid’s fault ownership got skittish.