Bynum returns to Philly 'a shell' of himself

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Bynum returns to Philly 'a shell' of himself

Andrew Bynum claims he will play Friday night when his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, play his former team, the Philadelphia 76ers.

Bynum was hardly a fan favorite last season when he came to town with great expectations and fanfare, and left having never played a game because of two bad knees.

“I got bad news with diagnosis on my knees, but I tried to get back endlessly,” Bynum said Thursday after the Cavaliers practiced at Temple University. “And the frustrating part was getting almost there and then to keep having setbacks.

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

Bynum tried last season, but things just never panned out for him in a Sixers uniform. Not that the big man is too upset about letting down the Philadelphia fans.

"I honestly don't really care," Bynum said. "I don't know how they will treat me. I was hurt. It is what it is, and I'm still hurt. But I'm still trying."

Bynum has played 51 minutes over four games for the Cavs so far this season and is averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Those statistics pale in comparison to his 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds he averaged when he was named an All-Star two seasons ago.

“In the moment it is tough to enjoy the game because of where I am but I am struggling to work through that,” Bynum said. “I feel like I can still be effective in this league but I am going to have to make changes to my game and it is about accepting those challenges.”

“As an organization we don’t want to rush it,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “We don’t have any expectations of him right now except for him to keep working and that is what he has been doing.”

Zero expectations: The exact opposite of what Bynum experienced when he joined the Sixers franchise. Keep in mind that the Sixers traded All-Star Andre Iguodala, second-year player Nik Vucevic (who had 30 points and 21 rebounds on Wednesday night against the Clippers), rookie Maurice Harkless and a future first-round pick.

Cleveland signed Bynum as a free agent and guaranteed him $6 million of a possible $16 million over two years.

One team put all their chips in and lost. The other gambled just a little.

Instead of being a centerpiece in Cleveland, Bynum is just another guy trying to play the backup center role.

“It’s been good,” Bynum said of his limited minutes. “Andy [Varejao] has been playing great, which is a great help to me and has allowed me to sit back and accept that role-playing responsibility in the moment. We all know if things were going bad there it would be painful, but I am happy he is playing well and I am going to keep trying to play.”

Varejao is averaging 10.2 points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes a night as the Cavs' starting center, leaving Bynum to to play between 15 and 19 minutes per game.

If Bynum can work through his mental struggles and accept the physical skills he is left with, Brown thinks his future can still be bright.

“You take a player like Zydrunas Ilgauskas who had terrible feet problems, and he was able to play after multiple surgeries and sitting out for awhile,” Brown said of the former Cavaliers center. “He was able to do that because he was skilled. He was not as big as Andrew but he was long.”

Ilgauskas played five games in the 1998-99 season. The following year, he did not play a game and in the 2000-01 season he played just 24 games.

His career seemed destined for what has become of Greg Oden, but instead Ilgauskas returned to play 734 games over 10 seasons as an effective scorer and rebounder.

“Ilgaukas was long, skilled and intelligent, and with that you are going to have a chance to play many years even if a guy like Andrew doesn’t get his explosiveness back,” Brown said. “Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. But he is working hard to be the player he was before.”

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric halts slump with 'best game as a 76er'

Dario Saric came into the NBA knowing his rookie season would be one of ups and downs. He would have successes based on his talent and struggle because of the newness of the league and matchups.

Saturday’s performance against the Celtics was one of those highlight nights. Saric scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, both tying career-highs, for his third double-double. He was efficient in his performance, playing 27 minutes off the bench in the Sixers' 107-106 loss.

“I thought that was his best game as a 76er,” Brett Brown said.

Saric had struggled the night before against the Magic. He barely made a dent in 16 minutes, posting just two points (1 for 5 from the field) without a single rebound. The poor showing was on his mind Saturday, as he got ready for the second game of the back-to-back. He went in early to get up extra shots, met with coaches, studied film and thought about the matchup throughout the day.

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said. “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

Saric showed his aggressiveness in crunch time in the fourth quarter, when he scored seven points and five rebounds in eight minutes. He nailed a three to cut the Celtics' lead to 92-91 with 4:28 to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, Saric’s free throws cut the Celtics' lead to two points. On the other end of the court, he snagged the rebound off an Isaiah Thomas miss and scored a game-tying layup from Jahlil Okafor.  

“He played great,” Okafor said. “He’s working hard every day, getting used to the NBA process. It was good to see hard work paying off for him.”

Saric has been adjusting to new roles throughout the season. He was thrown into the starting power forward spot when Ben Simmons was injured, and then moved to the bench when the team acquired Ersan Ilyasova. On Saturday, Brown also played Saric at small forward in Robert Covington’s (knee) absence, a shift the Sixers may try again.

“He’s a good teammate,” Brown said. “He’s biding his time. He understands he’s a rookie. Incrementally, he’ll be given these opportunities. Tonight he did and he responded and you’re seeing continued growth.”

Saric still is early in his NBA career, and Saturday's showing was a game he can look back on and study for the rest of the season. 

“I feel like tonight … you’d walk away and say, ‘Shoot, that’s a hell of a player for playing 20 games in the NBA and he did what he just did against a hell of a team,’” Brown said. “I’m proud of what we saw all over the place from Dario.”

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”