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.

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

CAMDEN, N.J. — Two bigs back, one big out.

Nerlens Noel will make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Noel has been out since the preseason after undergoing elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October.

Jahlil Okafor also will return following a bout of gastroenteritis, which sidelined him for the last three games. Neither Noel nor Okafor will have minute restrictions. 

Joel Embiid, on the other hand, will not play Sunday. He will miss the game because of minor inflammation in his right elbow, which he suffered in Thursday’s game against the Pelicans. The decision also is in conjunction with the load management plan the Sixers have mapped out for him. Embiid did not practice Saturday and will not travel to Detroit. 

“It’s very minor and we expect him back soon. Not much concern at all,” Brett Brown said of Embiid, adding, “I think it’s far more precautionary than anything people should get nervous about.”

With Embiid out, the addition of Noel will help the Sixers when they battle the Pistons and big man Andre Drummond, who is averaging a dominating 15.0 points, 13.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season. Noel will come off the bench as he gets reacclimated to the team and the flow of the game. 

“I felt great [to be cleared to play],” Noel said. “I was anticipating it so I got my mind right and this is what I’ve been working for throughout the whole rehab process. I’m feeling good and looking forward to it.” 

The Sixers are mindful of the fact Noel has not played in a regular season game since the finale last April. He has been working on getting his wind back up, and the Sixers will watch it closely in-game when determining his playing time. Noel said he has a “good starting foundation” with his conditioning. 

“You can do as much as you want on a treadmill,” Brown said. “You can do as much as you want one-on-zero … but there is nothing that’s like an NBA game. Everything goes faster, everything goes quicker, you have emotions involved which can also drown how fast and how long you can go. Those things are just part of him coming back into it, and we’ll manage him accordingly.”

Noel’s debut is the first step for him, regardless of how many plays. His athleticism will give another look to the lineup. Brown foresees having Noel back will allow the Sixers to play faster and protect the rim with a greater “bounce.” 

“We miss playing with Nerlens, just his presence,” Okafor said. “He’s an athlete. Obviously we miss him on the defensive side. We miss him as a leader vocally. It’s just going to be great having him back on the floor.”

The Sixers could counter the Pistons with the combination of Noel and Okafor, a duo they struggled to utilize together last season. Brown’s decision will be based on matchups. He pointed out a situation in which Drummond and Jon Leuer are on the court would be more favorable than one in which Tobias Harris is playing power forward. 

“You just try to pick your moments where you can maybe pair those guys up,” Brown said. “I think it will be a more genuine conversation as Nerlens starts playing more with us. He’s just really come back into it. But we come back and you play Toronto and you have all three bigs available, then it becomes another level of a conversation. I do look forward to it when we have an opportunity to intelligently match up with other people and we’ll play it out like that.”

The Sixers' next game after Sunday is Wednesday against the Raptors, when they expect to have their bigs ready to go.