Sixers will consider Bynum return but have bigger issues to deal with

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The Philadelphia 76ers gambled and lost. They traded Andre Iguodala to get back Andrew Bynum and rebuild their roster around an elite big man. Problem was, he’s an elite big man with terrible knees that never saw the court.

And the aftermath of that decision is just beginning to come to down on the team.

Coach Doug Collins has walked away. The next question is if GM Tony DiLeo will be back — he only took over as GM last September (after the Bynum trade) but his contract is now up and has not been renewed.

Then there are the on-the-court questions, starting with do you try to re-sign free agent Andrew Bynum, and if so at what price? Team owner Joshua Harris said they would keep an open mind and consider a Bynum return, speaking to CSNPhilly.com.

“A healthy Bynum that’s playing is a needle-mover, a top-15 player,” Harris continued. “But the reality is, he didn’t play a game this season. There’s risk. We’re going to weigh the positives and the negatives and try to make a reasoned assessment of what’s appropriate for Andrew. Certainly we’re open to the prospect of bringing him back.”

After a disaster of a season, Harris is trying to sell hope to a fan base that was excited after the Bynum trade and has since become disillusioned.

“I feel like we’re going to build a high-quality organization and we’ll attract a high-quality coach,” Harris insisted. “This is a good situation. We have a bunch of young assets. We have a bunch of cap room. We have an All-Star. And then we have a bunch of draft picks. I think you guys are painting this as a dire situation. It’s really not.”

Actually, it’s not good.

John Gonzalez breaks it down well at CSNPhilly.com. First, they do have three young assets of quality — Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. If you want to throw Spencer Hawes on that list, I’ll listen to your argument. But that is one quality point guard and some rotation players, it lacks the game changer that even Iguodala could be.

Draft picks? In this draft the Sixers have their first rounder (No. 11 unless there is a miracle in the lottery) and two second rounders. That’s nice, but there will be no game changers at that spot.

And as for that cap space, I’ll let Gonzalez explain.

If the Sixers don’t re-sign Bynum, Nick Young and Dorell Wright, all of whom are unrestricted free agents, they’ll still have about $46 million in salary commitments for next season…. If, as expected, the NBA salary cap is about $60 million next year, that leaves the Sixers $14 million. Except they’ll also have to pay their first-round pick, so subtract, oh, another $3 million. That leaves them with approximately $11 million for free agency.

If the Sixers re-sign Bynum he could cut into that cap space, so they would likely do it after they go after and ink any free agents. But $11 million in cap space doesn’t get you that much on the free agent market — it likely doesn’t get you even a Josh Smith kind of player, it more likely gets you a couple mid-level type guys. That’s not changing things.

There needs to be a new top-to-bottom plan in Philadelphia. Harris needs to find the GM/president with that vision, lock him up and let him do the years of work it’s going to take to get the Sixers roster fixed.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.

Playoff losses wearing on LeBron James: ‘I lose sleep’

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Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost one game before reaching the NBA Finals. The season before that, two. The season before that also two. In Miami before that, the last couple of years they went to the Finals the Heat lost three and four games before reaching the Finals.

This year, the Cavaliers have lost five games already and find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics heading into Game 3 Saturday night in Cleveland.

The losses do weigh on LeBron, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I mean, I lose sleep,” James said after shootaround Saturday morning. “I mean, at the end of the day, when you lose any game in the postseason, [you lose sleep], so it’s never comfort. Playoffs is never comfort. There’s nothing about the playoffs that’s comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer.

“So, for me, it’s always [a] day-to-day grind to figure out ways that you can be better.”

Cleveland has a lot to figure out to win the next two games because if they don’t and go down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to envision how LeBron can drag this roster back to the Finals (what would be his eighth straight trip).

Offensively Cleveland has to get consistent play from guys other than LeBron (and to a lesser extent, Kevin Love) — J.R. Smith has been awful and needs to find a rhythm at home, George Hill needs to make some plays, Kyle Korver needs to get open and knock down some looks, and some help from the bench is needed.

But that’s not even the end of the floor that is the Cavs real problem. Defensively the Cavaliers recognition and communication has been dreadful, and the passing and player movement of the Celtics has carved them up. Cleveland has outscored teams and not defended all that well for a long time now — that’s how they made the Finals a season ago — but it’s not enough now. The offense and LeBron can’t carry them all the way.

We’ll see after Game 3 if LeBron is going to be able to get any sleep Saturday night.

Bulls’ Paul Zipser has surgery to repair broken left foot

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CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Bulls forward Paul Zipser has had surgery to repair a broken left foot.

The team said Friday the operation was performed in his native Germany. The Bulls gave no timetable for his recovery.

Zipser averaged 4.0 points in 54 appearances before sitting out the final nine games last season.