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.

Union goalie John McCarthy ready for 1st MLS start of season

Union goalie John McCarthy ready for 1st MLS start of season

CHESTER, Pa. -- Long after Wednesday’s morning training session ended, John McCarthy remained on the practice field to sign autographs for a bunch of young campers.
 
This is a typical activity for the popular Philadelphia native, who in many ways is a perfect backup goalkeeper for the Union.

But this weekend, McCarthy will be more than just an ambassador for fans. With Andre Blake on international duty with the Jamaican national team, the La Salle alum will be thrust into the limelight and make his first MLS start of the season when the Union face the Chicago Fire on Saturday at Toyota Park (8:30 p.m./TCN).  

“Obviously he’s itching to get his first MLS game this year,” Curtin said. “He’s a professional. This is what he prepares for. It’s similar to a backup quarterback role — you have to be ready when your number is called, and I know Johnny will be. He’s a guy I trust a great deal. He’s a winner. He won big games last year, and I expect him to do the same in Chicago.”

McCarthy indeed had a memorable rookie season last year, starting 11 games in league play while playing a key role in the Union’s run to the U.S. Open Cup final. 

But with Blake overcoming injuries and growing into an All-Star this year, McCarthy’s opportunities for playing time have dried up. So far in 2016, he’s played in just one U.S. Open Cup game on top of the 11 starts he's made for the Union’s USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC.

How has he dealt with such a change?

“You don’t want to change anything up,” McCarthy said. “You just want to be as consistent as possible, keep training the same and keep your mindset the same because it’s the same when you’re sitting on the bench. You’ve got to be ready to play — and the opportunity is here.”

Another international call-up for Blake left the door open for McCarthy to potentially start June 1 vs. Columbus Crew SC. But Curtin instead opted to go with Matt Jones, who gave up two goals but got the win in what's been his only MLS start. Jones has since been dealing with an injury though, which led to McCarthy getting the nod this weekend. 

Despite the competition, McCarthy insists he and Jones — and Blake too — have maintained a great rapport.

“We’re all really good friends,” he said. “We all sit next to each other in the locker room. We can give each other crap off the field, joke with each other and stuff, and then when it comes to [being] on the field, it’s time to work. And we work together as a group because at the end of the day, whoever’s playing, we want the best for them and we want to win.”

McCarthy certainly wants the best for Blake, who is set to start in net for Jamaica in a couple of key games vs. Panama and Haiti as the Reggae Boyz look to advance to the fifth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. 

Alejandro Bedoya will also be involved in the final two games of the fourth round of qualifying as he joins the U.S. national team. And if he plays in Friday’s game vs. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as expected, it will mark just the second time in club history an active Union player plays for the USMNT.

That’s a big deal, according to Curtin.

“Listen, when kids watch the game and they see who’s on the national team, that’s who they should all aspire to be like,” Curtin said. “I think Alejandro is a player every kid should want to be like. … To have a guy from the Union with this badge represent our country is really powerful. I think that shows the growth of our club. We want more and more of our guys to represent our country.”

At the same time, Bedoya’s absence will naturally create a big hole for the Union, who are dealing with injuries to other midfielders. Blake — who’s usually good for a spectacular save or two — not being in Chicago will be tough for the team to cope with, too.

But Curtin is eager to see some of his bench guys fill important roles this weekend — especially McCarthy.

“All goalies are a little bit crazy in their own way,” Curtin said. “I put Johnny right in that category. So he’s not fazed by pressure. I think he embraces pressure. He’s a fighter. He has a good strong mentality and he works his tail off every day in training.
“He’s one of our hardest working guys. He stays after to take shots, and puts a ton of work in. I’m happy and excited for him to get his opportunity now.”

Phillies to add 3 players Friday; Nick Williams iffy for September call-up

Phillies to add 3 players Friday; Nick Williams iffy for September call-up

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he expects the club to add three players from the minors on Friday. Rosters expand on Thursday, an off day for the Phils.

“A couple of relievers, maybe a hitter,” Mackanin said before Wednesday night's game against Washington.

Mackanin would not name names because a lot can change in a day or two.

Darin Ruf seems to be a logical choice to be the hitter Mackanin referred to. He opened the season with the big club, but got just 57 at-bats and hit just .158 before being sent to Triple A when Tommy Joseph came up. Since going down, Ruf has hit .298 with 20 homers, 65 RBIs and a .895 OPS in 94 games for Lehigh Valley.

The Phillies will likely add two relievers to fortify the bullpen. Patrick Schuster, a lefty who was recently claimed off waivers from Oakland, could be a possibility. Colton Murray, Luis Garcia, Dalier Hinojosa and Elvis Araujo all could be possibilities, as well. All have spent time in the majors this season.

The Phils can’t completely pick over the Triple A roster because Lehigh Valley’s regular season runs through Monday and that club is likely to be in the International League playoffs.

Once Lehigh Valley’s season is over, more pitching could come. Starters David Buchanan and Phil Klein could be possibilities. Alec Asher, currently serving a suspension for testing positive for PEDs, is expected to be activated by the big club next week and could provide some innings to the starting rotation.

It’s unclear which prospects will come up. Catcher Jorge Alfaro seems to be a shoo-in after Double A Reading’s playoff run. Shortstop J.P. Crawford is not on the 40-man roster and does not need to be protected on it this winter. That could prevent him from coming up as the Phillies look to use the 40-man roster spot on a player that they could lose if not protected. Outfielder Nick Williams seemed to be a lock to come up a month ago, but his performance has slipped at Triple A in recent weeks and he now looks iffy.

Williams, like Alfaro, was acquired from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade last summer. The lefty-hitting outfielder entered Wednesday hitting .265 with 12 homers, 62 RBIs and just a .294 on-base percentage in 119 games. He entered Wednesday hitting just .187 with a paltry .204 on-base percentage in the month of August. He had struck out 34 times and walked just once in 93 trips to the plate in August.

That certainly cannot sit well with a front office that puts a premium on players who "control the strike zone."

AFL rosters announced
The Phillies will send six players to the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. The group includes three pitchers, right-handed relievers Victor Arano and Miguel Nunez, and lefty starter Brandon Liebrandt, second baseman Scott Kingery, third baseman Mitch Walding, and outfielder Aaron Brown. Brown replaces outfielder Andrew Pullin, who recently went on the disabled list at Double A Reading with an elbow injury.

Sixers waive Carl Landry, Tibor Pleiss; officially sign Cat Barber

Sixers waive Carl Landry, Tibor Pleiss; officially sign Cat Barber

The Sixers made some roster tweaks on Wednesday night.

The team waived forward Carl Landry and center Tibor Pleiss, while officially announcing the signing of guard Anthony "Cat" Barber.

The Sixers were expected to cut Pleiss, who was acquired last Friday in a trade with the Jazz. On July 21, Barber and the Sixers reportedly agreed to a partially guaranteed deal.

Landy, a 32-year-old veteran, played one season with the Sixers after being acquired last summer in a trade with the Kings, a deal in which he was essentially a toss-in as it revolved around bringing Nik Stauskas to Philadelphia. Landry, who was under contract for 2016-17 at $6.75 million, battled injury to start 2015-16 and ended up playing in 36 games (12 starts), averaging 9.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

Barber, 6-foot-3, 173 pounds, will fight for a roster spot at point guard during training camp. The 22-year-old went undrafted in June after declaring following his junior season at NC State in which he averaged 23.5 points per game, seventh most in the country and best in the ACC.