Regarding Andrew: A Chat With Michael Levin About the Sixers' Blockbuster Acquisition

Regarding Andrew: A Chat With Michael Levin About the Sixers' Blockbuster Acquisition
August 11, 2012, 7:55 am
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With the Sixers shocking the basketball world—OK, nobody really cares
about their part of the deal except for us—by pulling off what appears
to be something of a heist for Lakers' All-NBA center Andrew Bynum, we
had to reach out to friend of the blog Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers
for a chance to celebrate some legitimately positive news for once. We
talked Andrew and what his acquisition means for this team, we said
goodbye and paid tribute to our now-departed Olympian forward Andre
Iguodala, and we anticipated what is now suddenly a very, very exciting
'12-'13 76ers basketball season. Check it out, and as always, head over to LBs for some fantastic daily Sixer discussion.

Andrew: Did you have any inkling whatsoever this trade was coming before 24 hours ago? Did you think the team had some big move in the works, at least?

Michael Levin, Liberty Ballers:
None. Zero. Absolutely blindsided me. I was at the grocery store, got a
tweet and rushed home to read everything. It was an hour later that I
realized my groceries were still in my very hot car. I knew Doug wanted
Iguodala gone, but I figured they hadn't gotten a deal they wanted and
were basically saving up for next offseason. This really came out of
nowhere.

And now that it's come, what's the part about it that surprises you the most?

WE
HAVE ANDREW BYNUM! I mean it's insane. It's something that, over the
years, I had considered because the Lakers didn't seem like they were
going to hold him forever, but the idea that he would come here is
really inconceivable. And now it's a reality. He'll be here for a long
time. I just want it to get started already.

Is he instantly the most important player the Sixers have had on their roster since Iverson?

Absolutely.
He's the franchise player. Which is FANTASTIC for Jrue [Holiday] and
Evan [Turner]. Much less pressure on them. Bynum gets to be the guy and
they can just be as good as they can with the knowledge that if you dump
it into Drew in the post, you'll be alright. That's huge.

So you think Jrue and Evan are definite winners in this?

Everyone's
a winner. Literally everyone. Even Kwame [Brown] -- much less pressure
on him (if you call it that) to be good. He just has to do his job and
not blow it while Drew rests. But Jrue especially, this will benefit
him. He needs a guy to run the pick and roll with, and even though they
rarely did that in LA with Bynum, I think they'll try to do it here and
he'll be plenty successful.

Everyone is a winner? What about Doug Collins? He could
barely handle a season of Evan Turner, won't his head explode after a
couple weeks of Bynum?

I think the Evan stuff was overblown.
Everything I heard indicated they were more of a married couple - minor
quibbles and not enough sex. But they genuinely like each other.

Basically, the Sixers wouldn't have gotten Bynum if Doug didn't
sign off on it. No way in hell. So he must think he'll be able to
wrangle him into a player, and I'm partial to agree with him. Though it
could be hilarious as well.

Of the three most common issues brought up with the Bynum
acquisition—his injury history, his record of immaturity, and his short
contract—which do you think presents the biggest problem for the Sixers?

Definitely not the contract -- I'm pretty confident he'll resign for the 5-year max.

What makes you so confident about that?

Thus far, the
extra year and extra money teams who have bird rights can offer
outweighs destination. Plus, Bynum hasn't said he wants to go to NYC or
back to LA or anything. I don't think there will be that many offers for
him due to cap restrictions and I'm pretty sure he'll enjoy being The
Dude here.

OK, and of the other two issues?

The injury history is
concerning, but there's no way for me or us to know what will come of
that, so I'm not terribly worried because there's nothing we can do
about it.
 
Maturity-wise, I think he's pretty fine. He's had some weird
things in LA but that's partly due to Kobe being there and partly due to
LA. Philly isn't a tough place to play anymore, at least in basketball.
The fans are the fans, there aren't too many media outlets, and you
sort of fly under the radar. I think he'll just do his thing, maybe with
a few weird bumps in the road because he's an eccentric guy, and it
won't be an issue.

Simmons thinks the Philly fans will eat him alive if there's ever a perception of a lack of effort—anything to that?

Nah I don't really buy it. They'll see 20 and 10 and trip over
themselves to cheer him on. I don't think Simmons knows much of
anything.

Any guesses for the first super-weird thing that Bynum does in Philly?

Eats a cheesesteak without wiz. It'll be catastrophic.

How well do you think Bynum fits with a running team? Or is that not who the Sixers will be without Iguodala?

I
think they're positioning themselves to reasonably succeed in all
facets of the game. Jrue, Thad, Evan, Dorell, and J-Rich are all good in
transition. But with Dre gone, Bynum in the fold, and shooters for
days, I think they're becoming a good half court team.

It's such a different team from last year and from anything Doug has
ever coached, I'm not sure how long it'll take him to successfully
build an offense around Bynum. But we'll see. They're better on offense,
that's for sure. Even without Lou.

OK, so you're Doug Collins. Draw up your bread-and-butter
half-court play now that you've got Bynum as the centerpiece of the
offense.

I have Jrue bring it up, Dorell running baseline,
Spencer at the elbow, Bynum in the low block, and Turner on the wing.
Inlet to Bynum, look for cutters, have Spencer do some off-ball
screening, and open it up. Maybe let Bynum post up, maybe find cutters,
maybe Dorell in the corner.
 
Plenty of options. I love this team.

So Jason Richardson—deadweight throw-in we had to take on to make Bynum happen, or legit contributor?

Legit
contributor. People have definitely been forgetting him. He's not the
player he used to be, but with a legitimate post threat, he is still
dangerous from deep. And he's not a liability on defense or on the
break. I like what he gives us to the point that I would like to see
them try to flip Swaggy [Nick Young] at the deadline for a pick.

Do you see him in the starting lineup? Wright instead? Who starts the four?

I
have no idea who Doug will decide to start between Dorell/J-Rich/Nick.
I'd guess it's not Nick.  I'd prefer Dorell. But I guess Doug will go
J-Rich.

At the 4, I think it'll be Spencer to start. Then there will be some
fluidity as to Thad or Lavoy based on matchups once Spencer reminds
Doug why he's never played the 4 before.

You bummed about losing Nik Vucevic or Mo Harkless, Sixers throw-ins in the deal?

Vuce no. Hated the draft pick. Didn't hate the player. Hated the
role Doug had him in as the season went on. I'm glad he's gone just so
he can get minutes as a backup big somewhere.

Harkless a little
bit. I sort of talked myself into liking him. I love the potential, I
just don't think he'll ever reach it. There's really no precedent for
someone like him going from almost no production as a rookie (which is
how little I think he would've played here) to All-Star success. I think
he tops out as Trevor Ariza. Not a bad player, just a lot of untapped
potential and misplaced athleticism.

You alluded to a potential Nick Young at the deadline—so do you think the roster is now set from now until opening night?

Well
not included Sheep Wayns, the Sixers have 12 guys under contract. So
I'd guess at least a few veteran roster moves will follow. But for the
most part, yeah, I can't imagine they'd tinker too much. But then again,
Bynum slapped me upside the head so who knows?

The team's off-season moves were up until this point were a little perplexing to some of us—does the team's prior strategy make more sense after the Bynum acquisition, or is it as puzzling as ever?

I don't think you can think of it like that. Everything that is past
is prologue to the Bynum deal. You can basically ignore all of that and
just say OK, we got Bynum now. Let's go from here. They definitely had a
plan (1-2 year deals, shooting) but it was more just treading water
until the right move presented itself. And now here we are.

So this was basically the absolute best the Sixers could have done, right?

Better. It wasn't even in my subconscious that a move like this could happen. I can't give them enough credit.

All
right, so now that we've looked at what we've gotten, let's take a look
at what we've lost: Do we exit the Andre Iguodala era with any ill will
or regrets?

Only regrets towards ownership and front offices gone by. Andre
did a phenomenal job here. He got shafted for a number of years. Bobby
Abreu/Donovan McNabb Syndrome, or similar at least.

I love him as
a player, as a person, and as a building block towards a championship.
Just not here anymore. It was time for both parties to separate. And I'm
thrilled that it happened like this.

Any chance that AI9 gets that #9 retired in Philly? Does he deserve it for his eight years of service?

Actually
I wouldn't retire it. It won't be. And I'm kinda surprised that I'm
saying no, but I sort of reserve that right for generational players.
And I don't think Dre was that guy. That's sort of why he was victimized
by the town in the first place.

What do you think the team will miss most about Andre? Anything Sixer fans have overlooked about him?

I
mean he's the best perimeter defender in the last 10 years outside of
LeBron and maybe Bowen/Battier, depending on the year. That can't be
stated enough. He's also a terrific rebounder (though not as good as
Turner, strangely) and his outside shooting has always gotten a bad rap.
On the catch-and-shoot, he's pretty fantastic.

Not being able to kill it in the half court is just one element of
basketball. It just happens to be the one fans and media focus on the
most.

Regarding the Iguodala era of Sixers hoops, if you could go back and do one specific thing differently, what would it be?

Not trade Iverson for Andre Miller and Joe Smith. Win the
lottery, take Kevin Durant. Be awesome forever and ever. That trade has
(and will continue) haunted us for years.

A few other quick fixes
made things worse. And they probably should've traded him 3 years ago.
But we have Bynum now, so I don't want to do anything different.

I know you're excited to watch 'Dre in Denver, as am I. Talk for a
minute about what the team will be like with 'Dre on the roster, and
what you think their ceiling could be.

I absolutely love
Denver's roster. With the exception of JaVale [McGee] (who others like
more than I do), it's an amalgam of players that I've wanted over the
years. Ty Lawson, Kenny Faried, [Danillo Gallinari], now Dre. It's a
beautiful team that I think will succeed under Karl.

Ceiling is tough because they still don't have a superstar. But Dre,
Lawson, and Gallo are close. I suppose JaVale is close too. And if
Faried is as awesome as a starter as he was last year, then it's the
most interesting team in the league. I think they are neck and neck with
San Antonio for that 3-seed in the West.

Who do you think should be considered the NBA favorite next year,
the Lakers or the Heat? Who would you root for in a potential Finals
between the two?

The Heat are the better team. But matchup
wise, I think the Lakers have the edge because Miami simply cannot cover
Dwight. And I would absolutely root for a 7 game series and a lot of
overtimes. That's legendary basketball right there.

While we've been talking, Jodie Meeks has signed with the Lakers,
2 years / 3 mil. Any thoughts, either on his role with LA or on his
time in Philly?

Big Jodie fan. I don't think he should ever
start in this league, but he's a great bench player for 15 minutes per
game and absolutely has a role in this league. He'll be perfect in LA.

All right, last one, and you knew it was coming: Give me a
prediction for the 2012-'13 Philadelphia 76ers. Record, post-season
performance, general narrative.

Record? I'd guess 48-34. 4th
seed in the East. That's borderline too optimistic because it will take
time to get the offense right and get Bynum acclimated. Depending on
matchup, I could see going as far as the EC Finals or losing in the 1st
round. I'll pick the middle, and say they'll bow to the Heat in the
second round. And that'll be fun and worthwhile, as opposed to the past
few years, which were pretty pointless without a star in place.

Now playoff experience and gelling as a team matters. Before it
didn't -- as you can see by the team's complete destruction this
offseason.

And will whatever they achieve this
season/post-season basically be the story for this team, or will they
have room to grow and improve for the next few?

Absolutely. I think there's still a lot of work to be done. But
for the core of Jrue, Evan and Drew, it'll be very valuable. I can't
wait.

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