A broken man, Bynum returns to plethora of boos


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.

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

CAMDEN, N.J. — Jahlil Okafor has been patient with his right knee. He was disciplined with restrictions and recovery during the preseason, recognizing the goal of being ready for opening night. 

At the same time, once he got back on the court he wanted more. Okafor played eight minutes Friday against the Heat, his first game since Feb. 28 before undergoing surgery to repair a right meniscus tear. 

“I don’t think I’m going to do eight again,” Okafor said Sunday. “They kind of heard me complain about that a lot. I think it’ll definitely be more than eight, but it won’t be much more.” 

Okafor has been limited since aggravating his knee during the final day of training camp. He practiced “to tolerance” on Sunday, according to the Sixers. Okafor did not participate in the team scrimmage and worked out individually with assistant coach/head of strength and conditioning Todd Wright. 

The second-year big man did not feel soreness on Saturday following the game. On Sunday, he felt “kind of stiff” during practice. Brett Brown has been watching Okafor’s movement closely. While Okafor considered it to be “good,” Brown was a tougher critic. 

“I think he looked OK,” Brown said. “He didn’t look great to me today. I’ll give him a B-minus … It’s always how do you move? East, west, north, south, how do you move?” 

Okafor scored four points and had one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover in Miami. He focused on his defense during the game. When he subbed out, he checked in with Elton Brand on the bench to receive feedback from the now-retired veteran. Okafor plans to continue to tap into him for advice throughout the season. 

With opening night three days away, Okafor still plans to be on the floor for it.

“I am optimistic about it,” he said. “I should be ready to go.” 

Robert Covington sprained his right ankle in Friday’s game and did not practice Sunday. Brown anticipates Covington, who has been starting at small forward, also will be ready to go Wednesday. 

“I do (expect him to play),” Brown said. “But we won’t know that for sure yet.” 

Sixers waive retired Elton Brand
The Sixers waived Brand on Sunday, making his retirement official. Brand announced his intentions to walk away from the game Thursday. The Sixers' request of waivers was a procedural step. The roster currently stands at 19. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said last week (see story). “But it’s definitely time now.” 

Brand celebrated his career with his teammates at Komodo in Miami on Thursday night ahead of their preseason finale against the Heat. 

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.