There is a palpable frustration surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers. Whether you’re a fan watching at home, a season ticket holder, the head coach, or an executive in the front office, the odds are that you are not happy with the way this season has progressed.
They have lost eight of their last 10 games, are 12 games under .500, and have lost so many games to injury to key players it would be laughable if it all wasn’t a little sad.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, though. In the offseason the Sixers were looking like a team on the rise after making a major trade for Andrew Bynum. Bynum was supposed to be their new franchise player and anchor their team on both sides of the ball.
In an interview with Comcast Sportsnet, 76er CEO Adam Aron seems like a man trying to come to grips with the fact that the move they all thought would be a franchise changer has gone terribly wrong:
“This is a move that should have worked,” Aron said. “But, unfortunately, he got an injury in September and it’s been compounded since, post-trade and we haven’t seen a day. The fans hopes were justifiably high that the Sixers had made a move, a bold move, that would catapult us back into the top teams in the NBA. It hasn’t worked.”
Bynum, of course, has had injury issues for much of his career — or at least since he became a full time player. The Sixers knew of these issues when they traded for Bynum, their doctors signed off on the deal with the expectation that he’d be ready to go at the start of the season. That hasn’t happened, though. Furthermore, every timeline for his return has been pushed back.
It is seemingly that moving back of his return that has frustrated everyone the most. More from Aron:
“We certainly thought he was going to play in August,” Aron said. “That’s why we made the trade. Even in early October, we thought he would play on opening night. Then there was a delay. Then there was [another] delay. Even when we announced that he was out indefinitely, inside the team we thought he would play in January or February. He himself, in February, said he would play in February. But here we are in March and the team is disappointed. Our fan base is disappointed. And that’s the story of the season.”
The question for the Sixers now becomes what to do with the mercurial center moving forward. It’s becoming more and more likely that Bynum doesn’t play and single minute this year and that will put the organization in an incredibly difficult position when deciding how to approach his pending free agency.
The Sixers have gone on record saying that re-signing Bynum is their “plan A”. However, what will that cost and how many years will they need to offer him to secure his services?
Considering the dearth of talent on the free agent market — outside of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard the market is devoid of any elite players besides Bynum — the odds are that Bynum will receive a max contract offer from some team in the off-season. Will that team be the Sixers?
If I were them, I’d float the idea of signing Bynum to a two year contract for the max with a team option for a third year. The max money would appease Bynum’s desire to be financially secure and the shorter length (with a team option) would give both sides some leverage down the line. If Bynum returns to full health and performed as he did before the injury, he’ll still be in his prime and eligible for another max deal when that contract expires. If he never recovers, the team can cut bait after two seasons. Seems like a win-win for both sides.
But, as Aron says, that’s a decision for the off-season. And a decidedly difficult one considering the uncertainty and the importance of it. When they do decide, you have to think that they will recall those thoughts they had this summer when they pulled the trigger in the first place.
It’s a deal that should have worked. Maybe it still will.