How Much Misery Do We Wish Upon Cavs Fans With Andrew Bynum?

How Much Misery Do We Wish Upon Cavs Fans With Andrew Bynum?

Generally speaking, despite all the heartbreak and sleepless nights he caused us in his one inactive season as a Philadelphia 76er, I've maintained that I wish the best for Andrew Bynum at his next destination. Bynum's super-disappointing year in Philly wasn't really his fault, and the Cavs fans have probably suffered enough post-LeBron decision without a seven-foot mess of big hair and bad decisions adding to their state of spiritual unrest. We're certainly moving on, with our new lord and savior Sam Hinkie, so may as well let Bynum do likewise.

Still, I'd be lying if I said it didn't make my black heart skip a beat or two to read that Bynum is still crazy injured, and will very likely miss the entire pre-season for the Cavs, and is far from a certainty for opening night of the season proper. "This is how it begins," I chuckled to myself, as I leaned back in my recliner and took a few puffs from my comically oversized cigar. "This is how it begins."

Yes, it seems like even if I'm ready to move on, I'm not quite ready to forgive and forget entirely. I was burned too badly, left too embarrassed and hopeless and empty inside to let go of my bitterness entirely. I'm over Andrew Bynum, but not so over him that I want to be risking running into him in the street with the Cavaliers and having to be all "Oh, hi, Andrew, how have you been? Wow, you look great, is that the Caesar you're rocking now? Hey, it works for you! Oh, and this is...this is your new team? Gonna be suiting up with them opening night? Well, that's great, that's...I'm glad you're happy, really. Heading over to Dave & Busters now, huh? No, no, you guys go ahead, have fun...the Sixers are playing a pre-season game in Spain tomorrow afternoon anyway, I gotta watch D-League footage of Darius Morris to see if he's improved his decision making in the pick-and-roll in the off-season. Hey, gimme a call next time you're in town, we'll go mini-golfing! Nothing in your new contract about you not going mini-golfing, is there? Hahahaha! Ahh...yeah, no, go ahead, we'll catch up next time. You still have my old number, right?"

Nope, can't have that. I might not want Cavs fans to suffer exactly as much as I have with Bynum, but it probably wouldn't be the best thing for my mental health for his days in Cleveland to be all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows either. Some sort of middle ground, in which Cavs fans at least get a taste of quality Bynum without getting to straight-up OD on him, would probably feel about right for me.

And ultimately, this is a decision that all Sixers fans must make going into next season: What level of misery do we wish on Cavs fans over the course of their team's two-year, up to $24 million deal with Bynum? I see there being four potential levels at play here: 

Level #1: Bynum at his L.A. worst. The seven-footer stays healthy all season and plays at close to his peak, borderline-All-Star level for the Cavs, but proves a little too big a fish for the small pond of the Cleve, acting out in all the worst ways that he did in Los Angeles: Ignoring coach instructions, skipping practices, pissing off neighbors with his impossibly loud Grand Theft Auto V sessions at 3:00 in the morning, publicly loitering with high school kids, drinking from open containers while jaywalking, and loudly and obnoxiously protesting the exclusion of King Crimson from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Bynum's health woes have been so tremendous lately that we tend to forget what a headache he was for Laker fans even at his best, just for his off-court behavior alone. Even if he stays healthy and plays decently, he could always be more trouble than he's worth based on his headline-grabbing antics, where you start dreading going on Twitter because you're afraid to see for what ridiculous reason "Andrew Bynum" is a trending topic now. (Of course, Sixer fans would've given weeks off their life to experience this level of misery last season. All relative.)

Level #2: Don't Know What's Gone (Til You Got It). Andrew returns shortly into the season and plays splendidly for the first months of the season, displaying brilliant pick-and-roll chemistry with Kyrie Irving, excellent frontcourt balance with Tristan Thompson, and a general toughness and swagger missing from the post-LeBron days in Cleveland. Then one day in February, he tweaks an ankle, and all of a sudden he's out for a week, which turns into a month, which turns into he gets back when he gets back.

For the rest of his Cavs days, Bynum is an uncertainty, returning to the lineup for a homestand but then not joining the team on the road, sitting out the end of the season to rest for the playoffs, but then still "questionable" for Game One of the first round. When he plays, he's Andrew Bynum, but when he doesn't play, he's even Andrew Bynum-er, growing Moses beards and flirting with chicks in the VIP section on the sideline, and constantly making fart jokes during important team huddles. He's never as consistently healthy or productive again as he was in those first few months, and Cleveland fans are all the more miserable for knowing what they're missing.

Level #3: Old Man Bynum. Bynum returns shortly into the season, but bears little resemblance to the 20-10 threat he was his last seasons with the Lakers. Rather, this Andrew Bynum is plodding, lead-footed, and totally overmatched on the defensive end, abused by athletic big men and speedy point guards alike. He only misses time with injury sporadically, but he never looks totally healthy either, and fans and pundits speculate about what lingering issues might be holding Bynum back from being his old self again, with certain writers calling for him to be shut down altogether.

Every once in a while, Bynum puts together a "Turn Back the Clock" game, in which he goes off for 27 and 14 and looks a little less lethargic than usual running the court and maneuvering in the post, leading fans to believe he might have finally turned the corner. But these games rarely come consecutively, and are in fact usually followed up with some of his biggest clunkers of the season. Bynum never lives up to his potential, and ultimately proves a step back for the supposedly ascendant Cavaliers. (Sixer fans, of course, are already intimately familiar with this type of misery from Elton Brand's inglorious first two seasons in Philadelphia.)

Level #4: The '12-'13 Sixers. Bynum never suits up for a second as a Cleveland Cavalier, and is bought out at the end of the season.

I'm probably hoping for somewhere between Level #1 and Level #2. I wouldn't mind him having some good moments for the Cavs, maybe even a big playoff series or two, but if he was healthy and productive for all or even most of the season, that would be pretty tough to swallow. And if he can sneak some off-court ridiculousness in there as well, so much the better--nobody in the league does crazy quite as entertainingly as Andrew Bynum.

Of course, even at the highest form of misery, Cavs fans will never quite suffer as we have. They have the advantage not only of low expectations with Bynum, but of not having given up very little in money or resources to acquire him, and of even having a backup plan in place in the form of Anderson Varejao, their previous starting center, who might have made the East's All-Star team last year if he was able to stay healthy. Oh, and they also have Kyrie Irving, and the #1 pick from last year's draft. They'll be fine regardless, and that's much more than you could have said for last year's Sixers team.

NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination

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NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination

BOX SCORE

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Suddenly, these Golden State Warriors who have been compared all season to the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s are on the brink of elimination.

Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Warriors 118-94 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Golden State, which won a league record 73 games in the regular season, lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

The Warriors must win Game 5 on Thursday in Oakland to keep their season alive.

"We all have to bounce back," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "The good news is, we go home. Obviously we play well at home. The idea now is to go home and get one win. Do that, and we put some pressure on them and we'll see what happens."

Klay Thompson led Golden State with 26 points, but two-time league MVP Stephen Curry was limited to 19 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Curry's shooting performance was so uncharacteristic that reporters asked if he was hurt.

"He's not injured," Kerr said. "He's coming back from the knee, but he's not injured. He just had a lousy night. It happens, even to the best players in the world."

The Warriors lost consecutive playoff games by at least 20 points for the first time since Games 2 and 3 of the 1972 Western Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Golden State's Draymond Green, who was fined for kicking Steven Adams in the groin in Game 3, finished with six points, 11 rebounds and six turnovers.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City got a boost from an unlikely source. Andre Roberson, a player the Warriors have ignored at times during the series, scored a career-high 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Kevin Durant added 26 points and 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and seven rebounds.

As for Westbrook, it was his first triple-double of the playoffs after posting 18 in the regular season. It was his fifth career playoff triple-double.

"I play every game like it's my last, regardless of who's in front of me," he said. "That's my job, and my job is to worry about my team, and that's all I do."

The Thunder know they have to close. Nine teams have rallied from 3-1 deficits to win.

"I think we're in a good place, but like I said, this game is over," Westbrook said. "We've got to move on to the next game. Every game is different."

The Thunder led 30-26 at the end of the first quarter, then gained control in the second. In the most unlikely of connections, Adams threw a bullet pass to Roberson near the basket for a dunk that gave the Thunder a 56-43 lead with just over four minutes left in the first half.

Oklahoma City finished with a flurry and led 72-53 at halftime. The Thunder matched the most points they have scored in a first half in franchise playoff history, a mark they set the previous game against the Warriors. It also matched the most points Golden State has allowed in a half this season for the second straight game.

Westbrook had 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds in the first half, and Durant had 18 points and six boards.

Thompson tried to keep the Warriors in it, scoring 19 points in just over seven minutes to start the third quarter. But the Thunder maintained their composure, led 94-82 at the end of the period and remained in control in the fourth.

"This is a tough situation to be in, but the series isn't over," Curry said.

Quotable
Kerr, on the pressure of trying to win a title after setting the regular-season wins record: "We had a tremendous regular season, our guys competed every single night and did something no one has ever done and they're proud of that. But in the playoffs, everybody starts 0-0. So there's no extra pressure, whether you're talking about defending our title or trying to back up the regular season."

Stat lines
According to Thunder Public Relations, the last team to score 72 or more points in the first half of two straight playoff games was the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers.

Tip-ins
Warriors: Curry went 1 for 7 in the first quarter, and made just 1 of 4 3-point attempts. ... Thompson committed his third foul with 7:55 left in the second quarter, and C Andrew Bogut committed his third about two minutes later. ... Curry made a 3-pointer for his 48th consecutive playoff game, extending his NBA record. ... The Warriors were 12-0 this season the game after a loss.

Thunder: Westbrook had five points, six assists and three rebounds in the first quarter. ... Oklahoma City forced 13 turnovers in the first half. ... The Thunder improved to 19-0 this season when Westbrook gets a triple-double. ... The Thunder outrebounded the Warriors 56-40 and outscored them 31-19 from the free throw line.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins fight off Lightning to force Game 7

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NHL Playoffs: Penguins fight off Lightning to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins made good on Evgeni Malkin's pledge to force Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, and Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series with the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-3.

Game 7 is Thursday night, with the Penguins hoping to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009 and the Lightning looking to advance to the Cup Final for the second straight year.

"I just told them to embrace the moment. It's a great opportunity for us. These are the type of circumstances to where you have an opportunity to write your own story," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan.

"They had a certain mindset going into this tonight: `We're going to leave it all out there and do everything we can to bring this back to Pittsburgh,'" Sullivan added. "And, certainly that's what they did."

Malkin was the most demonstrative of the players expressing confidence the Penguins could take the series back to Pittsburgh, saying he believed in himself, his teammates and that they could return home for a seventh game "for sure."

Crosby stepped up with his third game-winning goal of the series. The Penguins captain assisted on Kessel's 5-on-3 power-play goal in the opening period and later skated around Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman into the clear before sending a wrist shot between goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy's legs for a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the second period.

"We know the circumstances. It makes you go out there with a mindset of playing desperate," Crosby said. "I think we had confidence in the whole group. I think everyone played great.

"Everyone contributed in their own way. In a big game like this you, don't do anything special, just do your job. I think that's gotten us this far."

Rookie goaltender Matt Murray returned to the lineup after being replaced as the starter for Game 5 by Marc-Andre Fleury, but his 10th playoff victory did not come without a bit of suspense.

Brian Boyle scored twice in the third period for Tampa Bay, with one of the goals bouncing off Kessel before getting past Murray, who finished with 28 saves. The second score drew the Lightning within one goal with 7:17 remaining.

Instead of flinching, the young goalie who turns 22 on Wednesday retained his composure down the stretch to help the Penguins avoid relinquishing a third-period lead for the second straight game.

"I just think it's part of his DNA. He has a calming influence. He doesn't get rattled if he lets a goal in. He continues to compete," Sullivan said.

"That's usually an attribute that takes years to acquire. And to have it at such a young age is impressive. I think one of his biggest strengths is just his ability to stay in the moment."

Rust's breakaway goal at 17:52 of the third gave Pittsburgh breathing room, and Bonino added an empty-netter to finish it off.

"We had a great chance tonight and just tip-toed around a little bit," Boyle said. "We were tentative and weren't aggressive."

Kessel's goal was his team-leading ninth of the playoffs. Crosby had the primary assist, his first point since delivering game-winners in Games 2 and 3, and Malkin also had an assist to extend his point streak to four games after a slow start in the series.

The Lightning had an apparent goal by Jonathan Drouin waived off a little more than five minutes into the game, when Sullivan successfully challenged that the young Tampa Bay winger was offside on the play before tapping in a rebound off Ondrej Palat's shot that bounced off Murray's pads.

Sullivan announced the decision to go back to Murray following Tuesday's morning skate.

Murray started the first four games of the series. Fleury replaced him during the third period of Game 4, then made his first start in nearly two months in Game 5, which Tampa Bay won 4-3 in overtime.

Before Game 5, Fleury had not started a game since March 31, when he suffered a concussion.

Tampa Bay entered the game determined to not come out flat in Game 6 of the conference final for the second straight year.

The Lightning beat the New York Rangers on the road to go up 3-2 in that series, but were badly outplayed at home the next game and had to return to Madison Square Garden to finish the series.

Now, they'll have to win on the road again to make the third Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history.

"I know we can. I've got confidence in this group. We believe we can do that," Tampa Bay's Ryan Callahan said. "We've had success on the road in the playoffs. We've had success in their building already. It's going to be a good one."

Notes
The Penguins were 1 for 3 on the power play and are 4 for 19 in the series. The Lightning were 0 for 1, dropping to 2 for 12. ... Malkin was penalized in the first period for slashing Tampa Bay Bay's Ryan Callahan in what appeared to be retaliation for the Lightning forward whacking him across the wrist with his stick. ... Murray improved to 4-0 following a loss. He's 10-4 overall in the playoffs.

Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

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Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

BOSTON -- David Price scattered five hits over seven innings and Jackie Bradley Jr. had a pair of hits to extend his streak to 28 games as the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 8-3 on Tuesday night.

David Ortiz had a two-run double and a two-run single, and Dustin Pedroia added three hits to help Boston win its third straight game. Price (7-1) allowed three runs, walking one and striking out six to earn his third consecutive win.

Colorado lost for the fifth time in six games.

Jorge De La Rosa (1-4) made his first start after spending almost a month on the disabled list with a left groin strain. He gave up two runs in the first, two more in the second and left with one out in the fourth with two on and one run already in (see full recap).

Polanco, Pirates crush Diamondbacks
PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco hit a three-run homer and drove in a career-best five runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates rolled by the Arizona Diamondbacks 12-1 on Tuesday night.

Polanco's shot to the concourse in right-center field off Shelby Miller (1-6) in the first inning gave Pittsburgh an early boost. Francisco Liriano (4-3) scattered two hits in 5 2/3 innings and added an RBI single as the Pirates improved to 6-2 during a 10-game homestand.

After a short adjustment period, Polanco has thrived batting third in the lineup, hitting .317 (20 of 63) with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 15 games. The Pirates spread their 17 hits among 11 batters.

Miller's recent recovery from a miserable start with the Diamondbacks took a step backward. Less than a year removed from an All-Star appearance with Atlanta, Miller's ERA ballooned to 7.09 after surrendering six runs in five innings (see full recap).

Strasburg strikes out 11 in Nationals' win
WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg remained unbeaten with an 11-strikeout performance, and the Washington Nationals hit three of their season-high five home runs off struggling Matt Harvey in a 7-4 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

Strasburg (8-0) gave up two runs and four hits over 6 2/3 innings in defeating Harvey and the Mets for the second time in six days. Strasburg has five games this season with at least 10 strikeouts and 26 over his seven-year career.

Harvey (3-7) stumbled through a third straight ineffective start, allowing five runs and eight hits over five rocky innings. The right-hander has yielded 16 earned runs and 31 hits over his last three outings.

Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon hit successive solo shots to put Washington ahead in the fourth inning, and Daniel Murphy added a two-run drive off his former teammate in the fifth for a 5-1 lead (see full recap).