Andrew Bynum practiced 5-on-5 Friday for the first time since being traded to the Sixers in August. The seven-foot center, who has yet to play a game this season thanks to a bone bruise in his left knee, looked like a player who has been sidelined far too long.
“He looked like a guy who had not played in nine months,” head coach Doug Collins said. “I think the good part was that he said it was fun to be out there again."
But don’t get too excited.
"I talked to him today," Collins continued, "and he has weight he has to lose, but we have six games in nine days, so there is no time to practice.
“I don’t think there are any bells and whistles sent off right now because he is close to playing."
Bynum has said he expects to play at some point this season, but time is getting away from the big man. There is less than eight weeks remaining and only 29 games in the season. Bynum has proven his worth in the seven years leading up to this season, but knowing his ability and actually seeing it are two very different things. According to the coach, Bynum's presence in the post created a wide-open perimeter, which the Sixers expected when they assembled a roster full of long-range shooters over the summer.
“It is amazing -- him just standing out there distorted the whole practice,” Collins said. “You get visions of what might have been. I mean we throw the ball in the post -- first of all, we never do that -- and when we did, there were like five guys on him, and it was like, 'No, you shoot or you shoot or you shoot.' Guys were saying, 'I never got such easy shots in my lifetime.'”
Seven months ago when training camp was just getting underway, Collins had talked about getting 40 points combined at the foul line and three-point line. Instead, the Sixers average just 30. But making up for Bynum’s presence involves more than just finding 18.7 points and 11.7 rebounds -- the center's averages last year in Los Angeles. A non-existent post presence impacts the scoring abilities of spot-up shooters such as Nick Young, Dorell Wright and a healthy Jason Richardson.
Salivating over what could have been is understandable. The sad part is that Collins sounded resigned to Bynum being a non-factor this year. He may play a handful of games, but his effectiveness is likely to be minimal.
Still, if you're looking at the glass as half-full, Bynum played 5-on-5, and that's better than anything else he had been doing.