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.

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

The Eagles released Rueben Randle and Chris Givens on Sunday, ending the brief and disappointing Eagles careers of both veteran wide receivers.

The two receivers were among eight players released by the team on Sunday evening.

Randle caught five passes for 26 yards in the preseason and Givens caught one for 19 yards.

The Eagles tried to bolster their receiver corps by adding the two receivers this offseason, signing Randle to a one-year, $1,025,000 contract and Givens to a one-year $760,000 deal.

Randle got $500,000 guaranteed and Givens $180,000 guaranteed, so the two moves will count $680,000 against the Eagles’ 2016 adjusted salary cap of $161,570,362.

The moves leave the Eagles with eight wide receivers: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Paul Turner, Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones and David Watford.

Barring any other personnel moves, Matthews, Agholor, Green-Beckham, Huff and Turner appear headed for the final 53-man roster.

Randle’s decline is fairly astonishing.

Two years ago with the Giants, he caught 71 passes for 938 yards, and last year he caught 57 passes for 797 yards and eight touchdowns. He had four catches of 40 yards or more in 2015, fourth-most in the NFL. In four seasons in New York, he caught 188 passes for 2,644 yards and 20 TDs.

Yet the Giants had no interest in re-signing him. Now the former second-round pick’s career is in jeopardy at the age of 25.

Givens, a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2012, was with his third team in two years this summer. His once-promising career could be over at the age of 26.

Most notable among the six other players released was offensive tackle Andrew Gardner, who started 11 games in an Eagles uniform.

Gardner, who had also spent time with the Dolphins and Texans, started eight games at right guard and right tackle for the Eagles in 2014 and was the Eagles’ opening-day starter last year at right guard. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot during a Week 3 game against the Jets at the Meadowlands and missed the rest of the season.

Also released was a member of last year’s draft class, sixth-round pick Randall Evans out of Kansas State. Evans spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad but was activated for the Pat Shurmur season finale against the Giants at the Meadowlands and got into the game on special teams.

The Eagles also released veteran defensive tackle Mike Martin, who played in 46 games for the Titans the last four years, including five starts. Also released were long snapper John DePalma and cornerback Denzel Rice, the latter of who played in five games last year and got 20 defensive snaps in the season finale against the Giants last year.

The Eagles also placed linebacker Joe Walker (knee) and defensive end Alex McCalister (calf), two rookie seventh-round picks, on season-ending Injured Reserve.

Teams have until Tuesday to reduce rosters to 75. The Eagles’ roster is currently at 73, and they have to reduce it to 53 by 4 p.m. next Sunday.

The Eagles finish the preseason on Thursday night at the Linc against the Jets.

Best of MLB: Josh Donaldson mashes 3 home runs to lead Blue Jays past Twins

Best of MLB: Josh Donaldson mashes 3 home runs to lead Blue Jays past Twins

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson had his first career three-homer game, Troy Tulowitzki also went deep and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 9-6 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Donaldson hit a solo homer off Kyle Gibson in the second, then delivered a go-ahead, two-run blast off Pat Light (0-1) in the seventh.

Dozens of fans tossed hats onto the field to celebrate the home run hat trick after Donaldson, the AL MVP in 2015, hit a solo shot off Alex Wimmers in the eighth. Groundskeepers and even the Blue Jays mascot helped clear the hats away.

Donaldson's fourth multi-homer game this season and the 10th of his career also marked the 17th three-homer game in the majors this season.

Jose Bautista had his first three-hit game of the season for the AL East-leading Blue Jays.

Minnesota lost its season-worst 10th straight. The Twins have lost seven straight in Toronto.

Scott Feldman (7-4) earned the win by getting two outs in the seventh. Jason Grilli worked the eighth and Roberto Osuna finished (see full recap). 

Pirates win 8th straight on road, sweep Brewers 3-1
MILWAUKEE -- Ivan Nova threw six sharp innings before leaving early because of a hurting left hamstring and the Pittsburgh Pirates hit three solo homers to rally past the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 on Sunday for their eighth straight road victory.

John Jaso and Gregory Polanco each homered in the sixth off Brewers starter Chase Anderson (7-11) to complete Pittsburgh's first sweep at Miller Park since 2004. Starling Marte added a solo shot in the eighth.

Nova (4-0) retired 10 of his final 11 batters after allowing Jonathan Villar's solo homer in the third. He scattered three hits and struck out four before being pinch hit for in the seventh.

Tony Watson pitched a clean ninth for his 10th save in 13 opportunities (see full recap).

Archer strikes out 10, Rays hit 3 HRs in 10-4 win vs Astros
HOUSTON -- Chris Archer struck out 10 in seven innings, Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Houston Astros 10-4 on Sunday.

Matt Duffy and Nick Franklin also went deep for the last-place Rays, who have homered in 21 of their last 24 games.

Houston, in the hunt for an AL wild card, had won three straight.

Archer (8-17) gave up three runs and four hits with two walks. With his strikeout of A.J. Reed in the sixth, the right-hander joined David Price and James Shields as the only Tampa Bay pitchers with multiple 200-strikeout seasons.

The Rays jumped out early against Doug Fister.

Fister (12-9) allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, the fourth time in his past seven starts he has permitted four or more runs (see full recap). 

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- A.J. Ellis’ first game as a Phillie certainly went a lot better than Carlos Ruiz’s first game as a Dodger.

Ellis’ first hit with his new club helped the Phils salvage one game of a weekend series with the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon. The Phillies won it, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), behind a solid start from Vince Velasquez, excellent bullpen work and Ellis’ big hit, a tie-breaking, two-run double in the top of the seventh.

The Phillies had lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 21-5. Their pitchers gave up eight homers in the first two games.

On Sunday, Velasquez and a quartet of relievers held the Mets to seven hits, all singles.

Ellis joined the Phillies just 24 hours earlier after being traded from the Dodgers on Thursday. He had been with that club his whole career.

Ruiz, of course, had been with the Phillies his whole career.

Ruiz’s first game with the Dodgers did not go nearly as smooth. The veteran catcher had trouble handling the pitches of closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning Friday night and that contributed to the Dodgers blowing a one-run lead and losing to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings.

Leaving the Dodgers was difficult and emotional for Ellis. He was able to bury himself in the game Sunday and came away feeling pretty good.

“It’s just great to be playing baseball again,” he said, standing in front of his locker, a blue Dodgers equipment bag (that will soon be swapped out for a Phillies bag) at his feet. “You kind of lose yourself in the competition and then just play again.

“Regardless of what’s happened in the last four days, it feels good to drive in runs, feels good to help put your team ahead and help contribute to a team win.”

During his 24 or so hours with the Phillies, Ellis has immersed himself in learning a new staff of pitchers. He caught starters Jerad Eickhoff and Jake Thompson in the bullpen before Saturday’s game and warmed up several relievers during that game.

On Sunday morning, he arrived at Citi Field, saw his name in the lineup and immediately began prepping to catch Velasquez, the hardest-thrower on the Phillies’ starting staff.

Velasquez bounced back from three poor outings in which he gave up 19 runs in 17 1/3 innings and held a hot Mets lineup to a run over five innings. The only negative was that Velasquez could not pitch deeper into the game because his command was poor and needed 103 pitches to complete the five innings.

Nonetheless, Ellis, who was the personal catcher for Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles, liked what he saw of Velasquez.

“His pitch count got elevated the first two innings and he was able to grind through the last three,” Ellis said. “The stuff is electric. He has so many weapons, so many options. When he keeps growing and keeps polishing that gift up, it’s going to be really, really special.

“So I’m excited to be able to continue to work with him, excited to work with him and (pitching coach) Bob McClure and (No. 1 catcher) Cameron Rupp, kind of talk to them about things, things he sees, things we see, and together we can build a plan for him going forward in his career.”

Two things are going to help the 24-year-old Velasquez reach his potential.

First is good health. He’s had arm problems in the past and there remain concerns about his long-term durability. That’s why the Phillies are closely monitoring his workload as this season winds down.

Second is command, control, economy of pitches – whatever you want to call it. Velasquez needs to be more efficient. Too many times he’s left games in the middle innings because of a high pitch count.

“Definitely,” he responded when asked if lowering his pitch counts and working deeper into games was the key to his improvement. “It’s going to help the longevity, it saves the bullpen, it helps out everybody. Not just on my end, but the whole team in general.

“And,” he joked, “then I can also work on my swing by getting some more at-bats.”

Despite the high pitch count, Velasquez walked just one. He struck out seven. He is up to 129 innings for the season. That includes five innings in a rehab game at Double A Reading. The Phillies will look to keep him at about 150 innings for the season. That could be three, four or five more starts, depending on how long the right-hander lasts. He’s averaged just over five innings in his starts this season.

“I think that would be the right move,” Velasquez said of the 150-inning target.