With Dwight Howard and Josh Smith officially off the market, and Chris Paul long since committed to re-upping with the Clippers, the NBA's off-season attention turns to our very own Andrew Bynum, the ultimate wildcard in this year's free agency. Yahoo reports that Bynum has already been offered a two-year, $24 million offer from Cleveland (with the second year a team option), and that Bynum will meet with the Mavericks and Hawks before week's end, in a kind of miniature version of the drama that preceded Howard finally signing with the Houston Rockets last Friday.
Of course, the week wasn't going to transpire without the 76ers, the team that ostensibly employed Bynum last season, having their say in the matter. Their meeting with Bynum took place early this morning--possibly late last night by Andrew's schedule--in a closed-door affair that left most media members in the dark. However, ESPN Philadelphia has the report of what went down in the Sixers' free-agency pitch to their All-Star center:
The meeting started with Bynum and three members of his entourage arriving 25 minutes late, claiming to have gotten confused by the number of similar-looking parking lots in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex area. Bynum wore a salmon-colored Polo t-shirt and sandals with socks, as well as a pair of aviator sunglasses, which he politely declined to take off during the meeting.
First to talk at the meeting was Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie, who spoke to Bynum about the importance of taking the long view of things, and not to expect any kind of quick fixes with the team and their roster as currently constituted. He explained to the center that the team would probably not be ready to compete for a championship for another three to four years minimum, and that in the meantime, there would be a lot of losing. Bynum asked if that meant the team was hoping to sign him to a contract that would have him still on the roster at the point of the Sixers again being competitive. Hinkie responded by scolding him for "trying to rush the process."
Next up were a number of special guests: Jeff Ruland, Chris Webber and Elton Brand, who preached to the center about Philadelphia 76ers history, and the team's proud lineage of injured, past-their-prime big men. Ruland spoke fondly of seasons spent on the sideline at the Spectrum, laughing about his impression of Charles Barkley ordering a Breakfast Sampler at IHOP with teammate Scott Brooks. Webber recalled skipping Fan Appreciation Night with Allen Iverson at the Wachovia Center ("We heard about this party AI's cousin was throwing at Drexel that night--SO many drunk college chicks") in his last home game for the Sixers. Brand focused mostly on the subtle pleasures of getting amnestied, raving about how "they actually pay you go play for another team--sometimes one that's actually good!"
Then came the pleas from Bynum's Sixers teammates. First came Nick Young, who gave an emotional, surprisingly coherent-sounding remembrance of his and Bynum's time as teammates, going off-road biking and making late-night trips to the Franklin Institute. Young even pulled up some pictures on his phone of he and Bynum posing with various different hairstyles and goofy-looking hats, including a black-and-white one of the two in sombreros and cartoonish mustaches, the memory of which made the pair crack up in hysterics. Bynum was clearly touched by the display, though he also seemed a bit surprised, claiming that he didn't even know Young had been re-signed by the team. Young looked upset and confused at this, and started to say something to Sam Hinkie, before Hinkie quickly thanked him for his time and shuttled him out of the room.
After Young came Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, who spoke to Bynum of the bright future they envisioned for the 76ers. The words "dynasty," "big three" and "final piece" were mentioned, with Evan pulling up his 2012-13 Game Log on Basketball-Reference to show Bynum the stat lines from his one month of above-average play from the previous season, and Hawes citing that time Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski predicted pre-season that he would win Most Improved Player for the year. The two also reminded Bynum of the benefits of living in the Philadelphia market, explaining that it took them a good two seasons to come up with their ideal hoagie-and-sides orders at Wawa, but now they couldn't imagine eating at any other convenience store. Before leaving, Turner and Hawes made Bynum promise that he would finally follow them on Twitter, though it remains unclear if Bynum even has a Twitter account.
Finally, the Sixers' new head coach made his appearance. He gave an incredibly rousing, inspirational speech about the value of teamwork and the importance of building character, concluding by walking up to Bynum's seat and saying "Now I can't be the one who walks you through that door. All I can do is tell you that once you get to the other side, and look into my eyes, and the eyes of those 11 boys who'll be standing there with you, you will know without a doubt, deep down in your heart, that you did the right thing." The room erupted into applause, including a stunned-looking Bynum. Once he left the room, Bynum asked of his entourage if they had any clue who the coach was. None seemed to, nor did any of the media members or Sixers officials in the room, though a couple discussed the coach's striking resemblance to actor Kyle Chandler.
After the meeting, Sixers president Josh Harris said that he thought the meeting "went well," and that he was feeling "very positive" about the team's chances of retaining their All-Star big man.
No official word yet about the Sixers' offer to Bynum, or his response to their offer. Stay turned for further details.