A broken man, Bynum returns to plethora of boos

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A broken man, Bynum returns to plethora of boos

When Andrew Bynum finally took the court in Philadelphia, he was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey.

It did not work out here for Bynum. Not in any regard. That much is plain and indisputable. He was paid nearly $16 million while he rehabbed his knees, which were bad before he got to Philly and remained bad after he left. Most of the memories involving Bynum over the last year center on the bizarre -- the bowling incident, the various and questionable hairstyles, the Zapruder-style film of him dancing in Spain.

No one seemed all that upset when the Sixers divorced themselves from the uncomfortable union. Some of the same people who cheered when the Sixers introduced him at the now-infamous public press conference/party were all too happy to open the door and push him through it during the offseason. Not that Bynum minded. He’s not the emotional sort -- or at least he never outwardly displayed his feelings. That remains true.

“It's another game for me,” Bynum said after the Sixers beat the Cavs, 94-79, at the Wells Fargo Center.

The day before Cleveland played the Sixers, the Cavs practiced at Temple. When Bynum was asked about what sort of reception he anticipated, he offered a typical reply.

“I honestly don’t really care,” Bynum said. “I don’t know how they treated me. I was hurt. It is what it is. I’m still hurt. But I’m trying.”

The interview went on like that for a while, Bynum saying he doesn’t care and everyone nodding and knowing it to be true. He said the fans here are “great” and showed him a lot of love, and then he added -- in a voice so soft it was almost a whisper -- “I don’t have any animosity or anything.”

He doesn’t. They do.

Bynum was booed when he came out of the locker room to join the Cavs in the pregame layup line. He was booed while he sat on the bench and watched the proceedings following tipoff. He was booed when he got up and went over to the scorer’s table to check into the game with 3:38 left in the first quarter. He was booed when he touched the ball, booed when he rebounded the ball, booed when he blocked Lavoy Allen.

He was booed. A lot and loudly.

“It was kind of funny,” Bynum said. “It was funny. I was smiling the entire time. It was funny … It was funny to me. I don't know what else I can say about it.”

It should be noted that the crowd did not boo a great player. They booed a broken man, a man fractured mentally and physically, a man who’s all too willing to cop to his pronounced deficiencies.

“It is still career-threatening,” Bynum said about his knees. “I am a shell of myself on the court right now. I am struggling mentally, but I am trying.”

Bynum dunked in Milwaukee the other night. It was the first time he’d done so in a regular-season game in a long while. He said he felt “sharp pain” when he did it.

He entered Friday’s game averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in just under 13 minutes. He is 26 years old, but he seems decades removed from being the player who averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 35.2 minutes per game just two seasons ago.

Against the Sixers on Friday, he played 18 minutes -- a season high. He finished with four points, five rebounds, one assist and one block.

A shell of himself. That seems right.

“I feel like I can still be a double-double guy in this league,” Bynum said, “but it’s going to take some modifications to my game and whether or not I want to accept the challenge and do that.” 

You get the sense that he’s not into challenges these days. Bynum said he’s been frustrated by his health and he’s struggled to “find the joy” in playing. Before too long, he might give up the search and go off and hunt for satisfaction in some other form.

More than once, he has considered retiring. 

“It was a thought,” Bynum admitted. “It was a serious thought. It still is. At the moment, it’s tough to enjoy the game because of how limited I am physically.”

How often does he think about it these days?

“Every now and again,” Bynum said.

One day, maybe soon, Bynum will walk away from the game. Slowly. Gingerly. But when he does, he won’t leave as a dominant paint player. He will depart as a man whose knees quit on him right before his desire did.

Bryan Colangelo: 'Never a period of discomfort' with Sixers' bigs

Bryan Colangelo: 'Never a period of discomfort' with Sixers' bigs

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers on Friday unveiled their brand new, state-of-the-art practice facility in Camden, New Jersey (see story).

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, while speaking to media members at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, touched on a variety of topics. That included the team's surplus of big men, an issue that has been years in the making.  

One of the major questions surrounding the Sixers this offseason is how the team plans to utilize all three of its talented young big men in Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid. With Embiid finally healthy and on track to play this season, the Sixers have some tough decisions when it comes to balancing playing time as well as maximizing each player's potential.  

There have been rumors throughout the summer that Colangelo has been actively trying to shop either Noel or Okafor because of his discomfort with having three big men on the roster. His comments on Friday cleared up the situation. 

"We're excited for the season. We’re excited to have three, talented young players that can play that position," Colangelo said. "I said something this summer that was somewhat tongue and cheek that was taken so seriously and everybody hung on that one word that I would be uncomfortable going into the season or absolutely uncomfortable, it was literally overstated so many different times. It was never a period of discomfort, in fact, it's actually comfortable knowing we have that much talent there.

"The discomfort comes in trying to manage and maintain the happiness of three talented young players and that’s something that I think will work itself out."

This offseason has been one of transition for the Sixers. The days of "The Process" are long gone, and the Sixers seem poised to finally become a competitive franchise again after years of tanking.

During their summer overhaul, the Sixers brought in nine new players in hopes of forming a roster that features actual NBA-caliber players that could compete on a nightly basis. 

The team now not only features a surplus of bigs, but for the first time in a long time, a healthy balance of talent at each position. 

"The availability of those players is going to be an experiment all season long, not just with the bigs but with this entire team," Colangelo said. "We’ve got a good mix of talent and there's going to be a lot of competition at every position."

Colagelo expressed that under the former regime ran by Sam Hinkie, the Sixers lacked any sort of competitive drive and identity, something that he emphasized greatly when first put in charge. 

"We really have brought some things to this team that I think was sorely lacking," Colangelo said. "One was veteran leadership, whether it's Gerald Henderson, Jerryd Bayless or bringing Elton Brand back. Playmaking ability between Jerryd Bayless, Sergio Rodriquez, Dario Saric coming into the mix, Ben Simmons — these are playmakers as much as they are good basketball players and scorers.

"So we’ve got a good mix of talent, but what we actually have will play itself out on the court in the coming months."

Sixers unveil new state-of-the-art practice facility in Camden

Sixers unveil new state-of-the-art practice facility in Camden

CAMDEN, N.J. — The doors to the Sixers' new training complex are officially opened, welcoming players into the 125,000-square-foot facility designed to be a one-stop basketball shop.
 
On Friday, the Sixers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the sprawling building on South Front Street. After years of sharing space at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) on City Avenue, the organization now has its own dedicated facility. 
 
The complex was built with the intention of becoming a “year-round destination." The team has taken each aspect of daily life into consideration to provide players and staff with the resources they need on-hand in Camden.
 
“We’re trying to create a culture of not only excellence, but of maximum performance and trying to give them as many things that can help enhance that and get us there quicker,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said, also noting, “We’re not trying to trap them, but we’ve literally given them so many things that they may not want to leave.”
 
Players arrived at the complex ahead of the official opening, and many were there on Friday as tour groups circled through. Ben Simmons and Dario Saric were among those taking shots on the expansive courts, which account for 20,480 square feet. There are two full-size NBA courts and six additional baskets, comprised of over 16,000 pieces of maple wood athletic flooring.
 
With an extra emphasis on health and fitness, the weight room and training room are located next to each other right off the court. Their proximity fosters communication between the training staff with strength and conditioning coaches to easily discuss medical situations, whereas they were separated on different floors at the previous facility.
 
“It makes for a great place of what we call ‘continuity of care,’” head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson said on a tour of the building.
 
The Sixers now have increased medical resources available, including a dedicated physician’s room. They are implementing a videolink system which allows them to videoconference with players offsite and with other medical professionals. The team is also moving into ultrasound diagnostics to assess tendon health.
 
Right off the weight room are four hydrotherapy pools — cold water immersion, hot tub, warm lap pool/plunge pool and underwater treadmill that can go eight feet deep. The team took the height of the players into consideration when installing the pools. The jets on the hot tub, for example, were placed strategically for their wingspans. A video system in room allows the team to monitor pool work.
 
Following the goal of keeping resources in one place, a video room includes a dual-sided projection screen that enables players to review film directly from the court through glass walls.
 
The Sixers are honing in on nutrition and diet this season. They installed a full-service kitchen with customizable options based on the players’ needs versus a buffet meal. The organization found its head chef in an unconventional way — impressed by the food at the popular Philadelphia restaurant Parc, Colangelo inquired about its chefs and hired Jae Hee Cho.
 
And if the Sixers want to get some rest after a full day’s work, the team also may look into sleeping pods.
 
“I learned years ago they come here and it’s sort of the field of dreams. If you build it, they will come,” Brett Brown said. “You learn that they spend more time here because it’s convenient and they feel like they’re getting better. It’s a chance to bring families together. It’s a chance to bump into a teammate and go up and have lunch … get some shots together. The opportunity to have and form greater relationships exists here. I saw that in 2002 [with the Spurs] and I believe we’re going to see it again in 2016.”
 
The Sixers believe the new complex will set them apart from other teams around the NBA. Players consider more than just wins and losses when choosing teams in free agency, and this facility could give the Sixers an edge.
 
“In the business today, there’s so many things that you’re competing with with other franchises,” Colangelo said. “It’s become a little bit of an arm’s race, if you will, with respect to what player amenities you have, how you travel, what the practice facility is, what kind of creature comforts you give them. ... We’re doing everything possible to maximize performance not only of the players and the athletes, but also of the organization.”
 
The team incorporated aspects of its history in the complex. The reception desks at the main and player entrances are made of the wood from the basketball court of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game.
 
The Sixers will hold training camp in Stockton University next week and then will begin practicing at the complex for the rest of the season.
 
“Part of building a winning team, an elite team is culture,” managing general partner Josh Harris said. “Certainly you need talent, but how everyone works together and how people enjoy themselves, that’s one element. The second element is having them available to experience all of the capabilities we can bring, whether it be training, massage, health, wellness, diet, sleep, there’s a lot of things we can put in their hands.”