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.

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

CLEVELAND -- Stephen Strasburg shut down Cleveland for seven innings and bounced back from his only loss this season, leading the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 win over the Indians on Wednesday.

Strasburg (14-1) began the season with 13 straight wins before he was beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 21. The powerful right-hander shook off that blemish, holding the Indians to only three hits as the Nationals recovered after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth and losing on Tuesday night.

Washington rookie Trea Turner drove in three runs and Daniel Murphy hit his 20th homer off Carlos Carrasco (7-4), who nearly matched Strasburg but was done in by one bad inning.

Nationals reliever Blake Treinen stopped Cleveland's threat in the ninth, getting a game-ending double play for his major league save.

Strasburg walked one and struck out seven (see full recap)

Cardinals snap Familia's saves streak, rally past Mets 5-4
NEW YORK -- Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Kolten Wong each stroked an RBI double in the ninth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals ended Jeurys Familia's streak of 52 straight saves in rallying past the New York Mets 5-4 on Wednesday night.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead homer off Adam Wainwright to cap a three-run comeback in the seventh that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead. But then Familia, who hadn't blown a regular-season save opportunity since July 30 last year, finally faltered.

Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk in the ninth and was replaced by pinch-runner Randal Grichuk. Molina hit the next pitch to deep center field, and Grichuk scored standing up to tie it.

Molina was thrown out at third by Familia (2-2) on pinch-hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker's comebacker, but Hazelbaker stole second and scored when Wong lined a double just inside the left-field line.

Familia's franchise-record saves streak was the third-longest in major league history behind Tom Gordon (54) and Eric Gagne (84).

Jonathan Broxton (3-2) tossed a scoreless eighth and Seung Hwan Oh got three quick outs for his sixth save (see full recap)

Padres hit 3 HRs to extend streak, beat Blue Jays 8-4
TORONTO -- Adam Rosales hit a two-run home run, Alex Dickerson and Brett Wallace each hit solo shots and the San Diego Padres beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 on Wednesday, avoiding a three-game sweep.

San Diego extended its club-record streak of games with at least one home run to 25. It's the longest run since the 2002 Texas Rangers set a major league record by homering in 27 straight.

Luis Perdomo (5-4) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings to win back-to-back starts.

Wallace reached base three times. He was hit by a pitch and scored on Rosales' homer in the third, connected off R.A. Dickey in the fifth and hit an RBI single off Joe Biagini in the sixth.

Dickerson homered for the fourth time in four games when he connected off Franklin Morales in the eighth. He is first Padres rookie to homer in four straight games.

Dickey (7-12) allowed seven runs, six earned, and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. The knuckleballer is winless in three starts and has allowed six home runs in that span (see full recap).

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Earlier this week, Doug Pederson admitted cornerback Eric Rowe had some “hiccups” during the spring, and seemed to indicate they stemmed from learning a new defense. 

Rowe says that wasn’t the problem at all.

“It wasn’t the new defense that was giving me whatever hiccups [Pederson] was talking about,” Rowe said on Wednesday as he reported for his second training camp (see Day 3 observations). “It was just, I was having trouble breaking on top of the routes, specifically the curl routes. But fade ball, deep post, digs, I didn’t have any trouble there. It was just curl routes. I just knew I had to work on it after the OTAs.”

Rowe, 23, said the problem was technical; he just needed to get his feet down quicker.

Whatever the problem, whatever the hiccups, it seems as though Rowe’s standing within the organization and on the depth chart isn’t what it once was.

Many thought he would be a starter in 2016, like he was at the end of 2015, but that wasn’t the way things were in the spring. Instead, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks took those positions, and it looks like Nolan Carroll, returning from an injury, and rookie Jalen Mills, who hasn’t yet practiced in pads, are vying for playing time, too.

In back-to-back days earlier this week, Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz failed to mention Rowe’s name while listing players at the cornerback spot. Coincidental omissions or a vocalized unofficial depth chart?

Rowe could possibly go from starter to deep bench player, but that’s not what he’s planning on.

“I know I had a little ups and downs in OTAs, but now the pads are coming on,” Rowe said. “I feel like it’s a fresh start for me and I’m just ready to get out here.”

Pads go on Saturday.

“Right now, I think I still stand in a good position (with the team),” Rowe said. “Football is about the game with pads on. Now we’re really about to see in a couple days when we put the pads on.”

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

He looks like a small back. He's built like a small back. He wants to play like a big back.

Wendell Smallwood, trying to make the Eagles as a reserve tailback, stands 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, but he said he’s got a surprise for defenders that think he’s one of those itty-bitty backs that dances around looking pretty … until they get hit.

“I think that’s what most people expect,” he said Tuesday. “But when I actually put my head down and fight for those extra yards and get under guys, guys start to say, ‘Hey!’ They start to feel me a little bit.

“So I definitely think that started to show my last year in college, and I started becoming more of an inside zone type of runner instead of an outside runner.”

None of this should be a surprise considering Smallwood’s position coach is Duce Staley, who during his 10-year NFL career was much more interested in running over people than around them.

Smallwood is nowhere near as big as Staley, who played at about 235 to 240. But that’s the kind of back he wants to be.

“It’s definitely important to me and it’s definitely what Duce wants me to do,” Smallwood said. “He wants me to hit the holes and hit ‘em hard and that’s the reason he got me here.

“Duce, he doesn’t like small backs. He doesn’t. I don’t think he believes in those guys. He was a big boy. Running dudes over left and right. That’s what he wants.”

Smallwood played sparingly as a freshman at West Virginia, shared time with Rushel Shell as a sophomore, then took over last year when he led the Big 12 with 1,519 rushing yards and added nine touchdowns, 26 catches and a 6.4 rushing average.

The Eagles plucked him out of Morgantown in the fifth round, and in an uncertain running back picture, he’s got a realistic chance to not just make the team but also play a role.

Just don’t expect him to play like a typical guy his size.

“I don’t consider myself a small back anymore,” he said. “People have always said that and I kind of started to agree, but then I looked at some of the guys who are around and I’m not a small back at all.

“I’m not little and the running style I like to do is suited for a big back, and my catching kind of throws people off. I definitely think I’m a mixture of both.”

Smallwood ranked 13th in Division I in rushing yards last year, and his 6.4 average was tied for ninth among backs with at least 200 carries.

He said a lot of defenders expect him to be a finesse back, a guy who likes to juke safeties and linebackers instead of bowling them over.

“Get me going downhill and I’ll get you what I can get you,” he said. “A lot of [defenders] kind of take the easy route and think it’s going to be easy and then the rest of the game they’re going low and trying to take my legs out.”

Look at the Eagles’ running back picture.

The starter is Ryan Mathews, who is talented but injury-prone. The backup right now probably is Kenjon Barner, who has 34 career carries. Then there’s Darren Sproles, whose 3.8 average last year was his lowest since 2009 and second lowest of his 11-year career.

With a strong camp, there’s no reason Smallwood can’t work himself into that picture.

The last frontier for the Northern Delaware native is blitz pickup. Something he was never asked to do at WVU.

“I don’t think I did basically any in college,” he said. “They didn’t ask me to block at all. I was mainly running routes.

“But as soon as I got here, Duce emphasized, ‘If you want to get on the field, you’re going to block. If you’re not going to block, you’re not going to play.'”

Staley’s No. 22 wasn’t available, but Smallwood is happy to wear the jersey number of another one of his favorite backs growing up, Correll Buckhalter’s No. 28, who he seems quite similar to.

It’s not fair to compare Smallwood to Staley, Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook or any other former Eagles back until the pads go on and we see what he’s really made of.

But Smallwood said he’s thrilled Staley is his coach and said there’s nobody he’d rather be playing for.

“I think he’s a great fit for me as a coach,” Smallwood said. “I need a kind of guy who drives me, tough guy, who’s not going to let up, who’s going to keep his foot on my back. I definitely need that kind of coaching.

“Just being around him growing up and seeing what he did when he was here and how he runs and him being one of my favorite backs, I was kind of star-struck to be around him, and now he’s my coach. It’s definitely a great situation for me.”