Andrew Bynum tried to make his NBA comeback last season with both Cleveland and Indiana, following a year of rehabilitation while technically employed by the Sixers.
Bynum appeared in 24 games for the Cavaliers, before unprofessionalism got the better of him and he was eventually kept away from all team activities. He was then traded to Chicago in the deal that brought Luol Deng to Cleveland, but the Bulls were only interested in salary cap relief, and Bynum was waived shortly thereafter.
The Pacer took a chance on Bynum as a form of insurance for their postseason run, but his continual knee issues kept him off the court for all but two appearances, and the team and Bynum eventually parted ways a couple of weeks after the playoffs began.
Bynum won’t be of any use to anyone until he gets right physically, and he intends to take next season off in order to try to do that. But if and when he’s able to return, a natural landing place for him might just be with Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks.
The 7-foot Bynum may not be reuniting with Phil Jackson’s Knicks or any other team next season because he is seriously contemplating sitting out 2014-15 to undergo the Germany-based knee therapy called “The Regenokine Program’’ that would require an extra long rehab, according to his agent David Lee. But he could be in play for the following season. …
“If he’s healthy, Phil will be interested,’’ Lee told The Post. “Phil knew how to tap into Andrew. They got along famously.’’ …
“He would be looking at in a longer-term situation,’’ Lee said. “He’s still a baby. If he went to college, he’d be coming off his rookie contract at age 26.’’
Bynum will continue to intrigue teams because of his sheer physical presence, the same way Greg Oden got another shot with Miami last season after years of being unable to play. But he hasn’t been able to contribute meaningful minutes over the course of a season since 2012, and the further away we get from what was his best season as a pro, the less likely it seems he’ll be able to regain that form — whether with Jackson and the Knicks, or anywhere else.
Damian Lillard throws pass away from basket, off Tobias Harris, into hoop (video)
LeBron James has played to overflowing gyms and arenas since he was a sophomore in high school. There is always a crowd around him to watch him play. Or a massive crowd of reporters around him after the game. Or throngs of fans when he travels through China on a shoe tour. LeBron has always packed the house.
“I am getting more and more used to being out there. It’s a very weird dynamic. I haven’t played in an empty gym in a very, very long time,” James said following the Lakers’ 116-111 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. “It’s been a very long time since no one has been watching me play the game. I’m just trying to find that rhythm and lock in…
“I’m getting more and more comfortable playing in an empty gym,” James said. “Just having the backdrop here is a lot different from playing in a high school gym or a college arena where you’re playing in the summer time, whatever the case may be. It’s very dark, extremely dark. You can literally hear a feather hit the ground. I’m just getting more and more comfortable playing with my game here in the bubble.”
LeBron has still been very good in the bubble — 21.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists a game — but he has not been quite the otherworldly, MVP candidate level player he was before the shutdown. His true shooting percentage of 51.9 at the restart is down from 57.7 before the break (and it has been below the league average since the restart). The Laker offense overall has scored less than a point per possession in the bubble and has been the worst offense in Orlando (leading to a 2-4 record so far). It’s not all LeBron, the Lakers as a team have struggled to get their pre-hiatus traction back, the chemistry is not quite right. But we know who leads this team.
LeBron and company also know they need to find that rhythm soon. They will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and face and eight seed — likely Portland or Memphis — that had to battle its way into the postseason. That team, whoever it is, will come in battle-tested and motivated.
The fans will not be there to pick up LeBron and the Lakers.
“I definitely love playing in front of the fans. The fans are what make the game,” James said. “Without the fans, I wouldn’t be who I am today. To all the fans out there that come watch me play, I miss you guys and hopefully someday I can get back to that interaction.”
Someday we all hope for that.
In the short term, LeBron and the Lakers need to find their groove in a fanless world.
Three Things to Know: Turn out the lights, the party’s over for New Orleans
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack — especially with games spread out every day in the bubble — so every weekday during the NBA restart we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.
1) Turn out the lights, the party’s over for New Orleans…
Phoenix, on the other hand, is still trying to crash that party.
Which is not how anyone saw this going (except maybe Monty Williams). Before players flew to Orlando to be part of the NBA’s restart project, it seemed the dream of hoop fans everywhere (not to mention television executives) was LeBron James vs. Zion Williamson in the first round of the playoffs.
That dream is dead. Turn out the lights on the LeBron/Zion party.
The New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings were casualties over the weekend in the West playoff chase — or, more accurately, the race to get into the play-in series to earn the eighth seed and a shot at the Lakers. Both were mathematically eliminated Sunday.
LeBron will still be there in that first round. However, Zion and the Pelicans’ chances of meeting him were essentially done after they lost to the Spurs on Sunday, 122-113. Maybe they were done when Zion had to leave the bubble for family reasons. The Pelicans got good play from J.J. Redick (31 points Sunday), who saw his 13-season playoff streak end, but overall the offense struggled and was inconsistent. New Orleans will play out the string of two more games in the bubble then spend an offseason wondering how to make a talented roster fit together better — and how to keep Zion on the court.
Phoenix, however, has become the darling of the bubble having gone 5-0 and they want to crash that party. Whether they get in the door or not will be decided in the next two days. Monday the Suns take on the dangerous Oklahoma City Thunder and Chris Paul, then on Tuesday they face the shorthanded 76ers. For Phoenix, despite the 5-0 start, those are virtually must-win games. As well as they played, they have to make up for an unimpressive first 65 games and they have a lot of work to do.
The playoff party out West is just getting started. Zion Williamson just didn’t get an invite.
2) Joel Embiid‘s ankle injury leaves 76ers with more questions than answers
When Ben Simmons had to leave the bubble for knee surgery, it meant Joel Embiid had even more weight to carry for Philadelphia.
Now he appears to be joining Simmons in watching Sixers games on television — Embiid left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and did not return.
There are no details as of this writing on Embiid’s condition and his potential return. Philadelphia has two more seeding games left — their next one is Tuesday against the red-hot Suns — before the playoffs start next week.
Should Philly sit Embiid until the playoffs start next week? The condition of Embiid’s ankle plays the biggest role in that answer, but a Sixers team that has not been able to get healthy may put the focus on that rather than trying to pass the Pacers or Heat in the standings.
This is a Philadelphia team that coach Brett Brown said preseason he thought could get the No. 1 seed in the East. Instead — in part due to injuries but maybe in larger part due to a flawed roster construction by GM Elton Brand that focused on size and defense over shooting — they likely enter the postseason as a stumbling sixth seed. A dangerous team on paper that never came together on the court.
How to correct that for next season, and how to get healthy and keep their stars on the court, are looming big questions for Philly.
For now, the question is, “when does Embiid return?
Portland needed a win to keep itself in the driver’s seat to make the play-in series in the West. Damian Lillard needed a bounce-back game after a rough outing against the Clippers the day before.
How about 51 points from Lillard? That should cover it.
“It wasn’t really so much my performance yesterday and I wanted to perform a certain way today,” Lillard told reporters after the game. “It was like, we let one slip that we should have had yesterday, and I’m a big part of why it got away from us. So tonight, I was like ‘That’s not going to happen.'”
It didn’t happen. Portland sits as the nine seed in the West with games against Dallas and Brooklyn left on the schedule. For Lillard and company it’s simple — win those and they are in the play-in series, and from there they have a good shot at making the playoffs. Lose a game and it opens the door for the Spurs or Suns.
Lillard doesn’t sound like a guy who is going to let that happen.
On Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, Lillard missed a pair of free throws with 18.6 seconds to go and a 3-pointer with 9.5 seconds left in a 122-117 loss. Clippers players Paul George and Patrick Beverley were seen laughing at Lillard’s misfortune.
Lillard got the last laugh Sunday by scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t really so much my performance yesterday and I wanted to perform a certain way today,” he said. “It was like, we let one slip that we should have had yesterday, and I’m a big part of why it got away from us. So tonight, I was like ‘That’s not going to happen.’”
Portland bounced back and pulled within a half-game of Memphis for eighth place in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers increased their chances of qualifying for the play-in series, which will start Saturday.
76ers coach Brett Brown wouldn’t say whether Embiid would miss time.
“I’m going to learn more physically,” Brown said. “I don’t know enough to comment on it.”
It was more bad injury news for the 76ers. All-Star point guard Ben Simmons is out indefinitely with an injured left knee.
Josh Richardson scored a season-high 34 points and Alec Burks added 20 for Philadelphia. The 76ers would have moved into a tie with the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a win.
Without their stars, the 76ers fell behind by 17 in the second quarter and trailed 67-58 at halftime.
The game tightened up late. Philadelphia’s Al Horford hit a 3-pointer to trim Portland’s lead to 122-121. Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic made two free throws with 10.2 seconds remaining to put his team up three. Richardson missed a 3-pointer for Philadelphia, and the 76ers couldn’t get another shot off after a scramble for the rebound.
“I thought our guys fought,” Brown said. “I really thought the spirit of the group was fantastic. We called upon many different players that I think played with a spirit and a passion that you’re proud of.”