A Look Behind the Scenes of the 76ers' Free Agency Meeting with Andrew Bynum

A Look Behind the Scenes of the 76ers' Free Agency Meeting with Andrew Bynum

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.

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

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The Associated Press

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have placed shortstop Erick Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right foot.

Aybar left Friday night's game in the fifth, one inning after he was hit by a pitch from Miami's Adam Conley. The Braves said Friday night that X-rays were negative.

Aybar, acquired as part of the offseason deal that sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, is hitting .182.

Daniel Castro is starting at shortstop in Saturday's game against the Marlins.

In a corresponding move, the Braves recalled right-hander Aaron Blair from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Saturday's game.

Royals: RHP Chris Young activated off DL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals have activated right-hander Chris Young from the disabled list before Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox.

Young, who had been out since May 9 with a right forearm strain, was placed in the bullpen after beginning the season in the rotation. He was 1-5 with a 6.68 ERA in seven starts, allowing 13 home runs and walking 11 in 32 1/3 innings.

The 37-year-old Young earned the victory in the first game of the 2015 World Series, working three scoreless innings in relief as the Royals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in 14 innings.

Kansas City optioned left-hander Brian Flynn, who was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in five relief appearances, to Triple-A Omaha.

Indians: Brantley unsure when he'll return
CLEVELAND -- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn't think he returned from the surgery too soon. He has been hitting off a tee but isn't sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage.

Brantley finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

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End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Dougherty
Scott Laughton will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and if there is any single player under contract on this Flyers roster with the most to prove, it's Laughton.

Laughton, the 20th overall pick in 2012, is coming off his first full season with the Flyers and he left much to be desired. He struggled to stay in the top nine and found himself a healthy scratch for seven games during the most crucial stretch of the season.

What concerns me about Laughton is Dave Hakstol struggled to find a position for him. Laughton is a natural center and the original thought process was he would play center in the NHL, which he still very well may. But Laughton ended up playing some wing this season, too. It was similar to what the Flyers were doing with Brayden Schenn in 2014-15.

Still, Laughton, who turns 22 on Monday, failed to show much at either position. He finished with seven goals and 21 points in 71 games. He found his way into the lineup for three games in the playoffs because of Sean Couturier's shoulder injury and showed little before suffering a scary injury that left him motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

We've said it before — Laughton will have every chance to earn his spot on the opening night roster in training camp. The Flyers won't give up on him after one disappointing season, but Laughton has to come to camp in shape and with an edge we haven't seen yet.

Looking into our crystal ball, the orange and black could have one or two more forwards from outside the organization in camp come September and Travis Konecny will be hungry to crack the lineup. Laughton is going to have competition for his spot on the roster.

And he has to prove to Hakstol, general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers he deserves it.

Hall
There will be no shortage of pressure for Jakub Voracek next season.
 
Not much went his way this past season, the first after signing an eight-year, $66 million extension following his career year in 2014-15.
 
He started slow. He changed positions. He got hurt and then played through it.
 
It all culminated in a taxing and disappointing season.
 
So, if anyone, Voracek has the most to prove in 2016-17. He’ll want to show that his career season was no fluke, that he can produce near that clip and is worth the hefty deal doled out by the Flyers.
 
Voracek’s health/production will be one of the hottest storylines to start the season.

Paone
No player on the Flyers’ roster has more to prove next season than Voracek.
 
Remember how great he was in 2014-15 when he finished fourth in the NHL with 81 points after leading the league for much of the year in that category, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and earned a massive eight-year, $66 million extension shortly thereafter?
 
Those contract numbers are important because what Voracek has to prove this season lies in those numbers. His play last season wasn’t necessarily befitting of someone with that type of contract.
 
Voracek put up solid numbers last season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games, but he just didn’t have the same effectiveness that he did in the prior season. If you recall, it took him 17 games to net his first goal of the season, an overtime winner in Carolina on Nov. 14. His ineffectiveness caused Dave Hakstol to move Voracek up and down the lineup and even send him over to the opposite wing, a position Voracek had rarely ever played before.
 
It just so happens that contract extension kicks in this season.
 
The soon-to-be 27-year-old forward holds himself to incredibly high standards. He’ll be out to prove to himself this season was an anomaly and make sure people know he’s a star worthy of those contract numbers.

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

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Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

One day after a rain-soaked 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Cubs, the Phillies look to steal a game against Chicago's fifth starter Kyle Hendricks Saturday afternoon (see game notes).

And with a right-hander on the bump for the Cubs, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided to give Ryan Howard the start at first base instead of Tommy Joseph.

This has been the subject of debate in Philadelphia. What to do with first base? Mackanin has used a platoon at first all season long, first with Darin Ruf and now with Joseph.

But with Howard's struggles at the plate continuing, many have called for more playing time for the 24-year-old Joseph, even against righties. Both played in Detroit.

Now it appears the platoon may continue. For at least one more day. Howard gets the call for Game 2 of a three-game set Saturday at Wrigley Field against Hendricks.

Howard is sporting a .159 average in 132 at-bats with .224 on-base percentage and is hitting .172 in May. Additionally, the lefty is hitting .162 against righties this season.

Still, Howard is tied for the Phillies' lead with eight homers. He's not making much contact and the case against playing him may be stronger, but he still has some pop.

Chicago is scheduled to start another righty Sunday in John Lackey. Joseph, who's hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs, might find his way into the lineup then.

Joseph faced four straight righties before Friday's game in Chicago. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he went 0 for 4, but in Detroit, Joseph was 4 for 11 with a homer and three RBIs.

What the Phillies do with Howard-Joseph at first base will continue to be a storyline until the situation is resolved. At least for Saturday, the discussion lives on.

In other lineup notes, Mackanin has given leftfielder Tyler Goeddel the day off, giving David Lough the start in left and batting him seventh. Cameron Rupp is back behind the plate, catching Jerad Eickhoff.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. David Lough, LF
8. Jered Eickhoff, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Jorge Soler, LF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Matt Hendricks, P