Andrew Bynum to have surgery, miss rest of season

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Andrew Bynum to have surgery, miss rest of season

With just five home games remaining in the season and the Sixers struggling with a 25-40 record, the team officially announced the inevitable on Monday evening.

All-Star center Andrew Bynum will have surgery on both knees on Tuesday to clean out the damage that has plagued him since October.

Bynum, a free agent at the end of the season, may never play a game for the 76ers. He will have arthroscopic surgery on both knees to clean out loose bodies to, “alleviate the pain and swelling,” according to the Sixers. Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York will perform the surgery.

“We sort of sensed that as the season progressed and he’d make a little progress and then it slowed,” head coach Doug Collins said. “I think it got to the point in time where Andrew had to get something done. I feel badly that I didn’t get to coach him this year. I think he would have been an incredible player for us this year.”

Bynum suffered a bone bruise in his right knee in September while working out ahead of the season in Los Angeles. Initially, the Sixers believed Bynum would return in time for the season opener. But when Bynum injured his left knee while bowling in November, the return was pushed back to December.

Bynum’s self-proclaimed return dates were spotty at best and constantly moving further back seemingly with every update. Unable to practice through the first half of the season, Bynum’s first (and only) full workout with the Sixers in February left him with pain and a swollen knee in the aftermath.

After the March 1 update, Bynum was rarely seen by the media before games or sitting on the team bench during games. It’s not known how much he worked out with the team after that first practice.

“I’ve talked about this before. As a man who suffered injuries as a young player, it’s devastating,” Collins said. “I can only imagine what’s racing through his mind right now. I hope we all keep him in prayer. He’s not played for us this year, but he’s still a 76er. I hope he has successful surgery and hopefully his career can bounce back and he can be an effective player.”

Acquired in the four-team blockbuster trade in which the Sixers sent Andre Iguodala to Denver and their last two first-round picks, Moe Harkless and Nik Vucevic to Orlando, the Sixers had high hopes for this season. With Bynum in the middle anchoring both the offense and defense, Collins stated that he thought the Sixers could win 60 games.

It wasn’t meant to be.

“When you give up a lot for a player and he comes in and doesn’t play, I don’t think that people know the pain that player feels,” Collins said. “I think we look at it sometimes and see the player and his exterior and we don’t understand how he handles things internally. I know from talking to Andrew how badly he wanted to play this year and how badly he wanted to help us.”

Headed into Monday’s action, the Sixers were eight games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Sixers are left to wonder about what could have been. More than anything, the Sixers were missing a presence in the paint all season.

“It sucks. It sucks to hear just from a friend perspective,” All-Star guard Jrue Holiday said. “I don’t know what it’s like, so I’m just praying for him.”

Center Spencer Hawes stood to gain the most from playing alongside Bynum. With Bynum in the paint, Collins said he envisioned Hawes playing off of him the way Pau Gasol did with the Lakers. Instead, Hawes was forced to take over in the paint and share time at center with 6-foot-9 Lavoy Allen.

“It’s tough, but at the same time we never played with him. It’s just speculation from there,” Hawes said. “We know how bad he wanted to get out there, but sitting around and thinking about that isn’t going to bring him back any quicker.”

Or at all. Bynum earned $16.9 million in the last year of his contract this year. He can be an unrestricted free agent this summer and can command a big deal from any team starved for a big man.

In the meantime, the Sixers can apply to get some of the money they paid for Bynum salary back. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, after a player misses 41 games, a team gets 80 percent of the salary back. For the Sixers with Bynum, they will get back approximately $13.2 million.

Bynum gets paid in full.

And the Sixers can only dream about what might have been.

“Obviously, it’s sad,” Collins said. “It’s been a tough year for our franchise and it’s been tough year for Andrew.”

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers at Bucks
3:30 p.m. - CSN/CSNPhilly.com/streaming live on the NBCSports App

The Sixers (12-26) look to get back in the win column when they face the Milwaukee Bucks (20-19) at the Bradley Center in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Let's take a closer look at Monday afternoon's matchup:

1. Back on the Embiid express
The Sixers have started to show flashes of coming together and finally turning the corner on their massive rebuild. However, they are nowhere near the point that they can remove the biggest piece of the puzzle and still expect to win games.

The Sixers found that out again on Saturday night, as they were pummeled during the second half of a 109-93 loss to the Washington Wizards with Joel Embiid sidelined for rest.

The team didn't want to use the rookie phenom's absence as an excuse, but it was clear his presence was missed.

“We didn’t have that extra oomph,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the loss. “Obviously, the omission of Joel Embiid clearly is impactful, but that’s the challenge. We just didn’t have it tonight.”

Embiid and his 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game will be back in the lineup against the Bucks.

2. Freak of nature
The Sixers won't be the only squad with a star in the making on the court Monday afternoon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown plenty of potential since he was selected by the Bucks 15th overall in the 2013 draft (Anthony Bennett, who was recently released by the Brooklyn Nets, was taken No. 1 overall that year, for those of you keeping track at home). But the man known as "The Greek Freak" has taken his game to new heights this season.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 23.4 points on 53.5 percent shooting in addition to 8.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals per game this season - all career highs. He's also coming off a 33-point, eight-rebound and six-assist performance in the Bucks' 111-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

With Antetokounmpo playing point guard full time now and the Bucks' starting five boasting players all above 6-foot-7, it's hard to determine how the Sixers will match up on defense. Whatever the plan is to slow down "The Greek Freak," it will have to be a total team effort.

3. Protect the paint
All of that size and athleticism for the Bucks is a big reason they attack the rim so much. Milwaukee is tied with Oklahoma City for the league lead in points in the paint with 50.6 per game.

The Sixers were dominated on the low block for 54 points by the Wizards on Saturday with Embiid out. For the season, they rank 14th in the league in points in the paint allowed at 42.3 a night.

One thing that might help the Sixers is their shot blocking. They swat 5.6 shots a game (sixth in the NBA), which could deter some of those romps to the rim by the Bucks.

4. Injuries
T.J. McConnell (right wrist), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Khris Middleton (hamstring) is out for the Bucks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 12 of their last 14 games to the Bucks.

• Ersan Ilyasova spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Bucks (see story on his return to Milwaukee). This will mark the fourth time he has faced his former team.

• Jabari Parker, selected No. 2 overall in the 2014 NBA draft right before Embiid, has emerged this season with 20.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

The Sixers will get Joel Embiid back in the lineup when they meet the Bucks on Monday afternoon in Milwaukee, but they'll be without their starting point guard.

T.J. McConnell will miss Monday's game with a sprained right wrist suffered in Saturday night's loss to the Wizards in D.C., the Sixers announced Monday morning.

McConnell reportedly did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and is back home in Philadelphia.

The 24-year-old McConnell has been a presence this season for a Sixers team that desperately needed something from the point guard spot. In 38 games this season, McConnell has averaged 4.8 points, 5.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds a night in an average of 22.3 minutes a game.

The highlight of McConnell's season, of course, came last week when he nailed the game-winning shot at the buzzer to give the Sixers a 98-97 victory over the Knicks.

Sergio Rodriguez is expected to start in McConnell's place Monday against the Bucks.