Agent: Whether Bynum returns is up to Sixers

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Agent: Whether Bynum returns is up to Sixers

The posturing has begun.

Will Andrew Bynum return to the Sixers next season? Based on what Bynum's agent David Lee told the Philadelphia Inquirer, the choice is the Sixers'.

Asked whether the 25-year-old Bynum would consider signing an extension with the Sixers, Lee said: "I don't see why not. I still feel like the ball is in their court."

Which could be stating the obvious, because the Sixers can offer Bynum -- who is scheduled to become a free agent July 1 -- more money and years than other teams.

Bynum, on the other hand, could choose to go elsewhere regardless of what the Sixers offer, but Lee added that "Philadelphia has been terrific to us" and "the only way that Philadelphia would not be an option would be if they decided that they wanted to go in another direction.”

As for Bynum's playing career -- the center has been sidelined all season by knee injuries and underwent surgery on both knees last month -- Lee told the Inquirer, "We have every reason to believe that he will be back on the court next season.” 

NBA Playoffs: Celtics win 3rd straight to grab series lead over Bulls

NBA Playoffs: Celtics win 3rd straight to grab series lead over Bulls

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley scored 24 points apiece to help the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 108-97 on Wednesday night and take a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.

After the road team won each of the first four games, the Celtics won at home in Game 5 to earn a chance to eliminate the Bulls on Friday night in Chicago. A Bulls victory would force the series back to Boston for a decisive Game 7 on Sunday.

Dwyane Wade had 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for Chicago.

But Wade and Robin Lopez were called for technical fouls 32 seconds apart with just under five minutes left, helping the Celtics to a 20-5 run that turned an 84-84 game into a 15-point Boston lead.

The Bulls cut it to nine before Al Horford got loose for a dunk, Wade missed a 3-pointer and then Horford fed Jae Crowder for a layup that made it 108-95 with 99 seconds to play.

Despite the technical fouls, there was little of the tension that characterized Game 4, when Jimmy Butler and Marcus Smart got in each other's face on the court and continued the criticism in their postgame comments (see full recap).

Beal, Wall push Wizards past Hawks for 3-2 series lead
WASHINGTON -- John Wall figured the credit went to the down-the-stretch defense displayed by his Washington Wizards.

Neither Dennis Schroder nor coach Mike Budenholzer found any flaws with the way their Atlanta Hawks handled things late.

Either way, the odd manner in which Atlanta seemed to allow the final half-minute or so to slip away while trailing -- not fouling Washington to try to extend things; passing around the ball, instead of shooting it, as the clock headed toward zero -- left the Wizards on the verge of closing out the teams' Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

Back at home, and back in charge, Bradley Beal scored 27 points, and Wall added 20 points and 14 assists, leading Washington to a 103-99 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday night for a 3-2 series lead.

"I thought they were going to play the foul game -- or at least try to trap. But they let us run the clock down," Wall said, noting that he felt as if he and his teammates finished "with the best scrambling defense we had."

Schroder led the Hawks with 29 points, making a career high-tying five 3s, and 11 assists. But after his basket from beyond the arc pulled Atlanta within 101-99 with 70 seconds left, Wall responded with a 21-foot pull-up jumper. Neither team would score the rest of the way (see full recap).

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Jahlil Okafor

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor

Position: Center

Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed — $4,995,120

Okafor in 2016-17
Okafor's second NBA season was up-and-down from the start. He dealt with right knee soreness during training camp and appeared in only one preseason game.

Once the regular season began, he was in a fluctuating role of backing up Joel Embiid and starting when Embiid was out. In December, the Sixers experimented with starting Okafor and Embiid together. They were not able to work out the challenges of two true centers sharing the court, the same situation the Sixers faced last season with Okafor and Nerlens Noel.

Okafor's season took another turn in early January. Noel slid into the backup center spot and Okafor fell out of the regular rotation. Okafor started when Embiid did not play and moved back into the starting lineup consistently once Embiid was sidelined in late January.

In February, the Sixers looked to trade Okafor at the deadline. They came so close to reaching a deal that they benched him and held him out of a road trip to Charlotte.

Instead, the Sixers sent Noel to the Mavericks. At that time Embiid still was sidelined by what turned into a season-ending injury. Okafor had the starting role locked up until injuries struck yet again. Okafor missed the final 11 games of the season because of right knee soreness.

He played in 50 games, three fewer than his rookie season that was cut short by meniscus surgery in his right knee. Okafor's stats tell the story of a frequently-changing season: 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 33 games as a starter compared to 8.6 points and 3.9 boards in 17 games off the bench.

"It was an interesting year, something that I'm proud to say I handled the right way," Okafor said. "I can lay my head at night and know that I feel like I handled everything professionally."

Signature game
Okafor's strongest performance of the season was Feb. 25 against the Knicks. He scored a season-high 28 points along with 10 rebounds. Okafor took over down the stretch of this near-comeback for the Sixers. He scored 11 points in the fourth, including a go-ahead basket with nine seconds left before Carmelo Anthony hit the game-winner. Okafor, whose biggest need for improvement is defense, pulled down eight boards in the first half.

Looking ahead to 2017-18
There are two important facets of Okafor's offseason.

The first is health. This month Okafor said he had not discussed surgery for his lingering right knee soreness. He plans to spend time receiving treatment at the Sixers' training complex this offseason.

The second is determining where Okafor will play next season. The Sixers still are open to trading Okafor if a deal works for both player and team. Okafor has maintained he is happy being a member of the Sixers, and the Sixers have echoed they will welcome him back for a third season if a trade does not happen. How he would fit into the system would remain to be seen.

On Okafor
"He has an appropriate fear where he recognizes this is a hell of an important summer." -

- Head coach Brett Brown

"If a deal comes along that makes sense for both of us, then we'll go ahead and make the deal. But we're not in a race to make any decisions. We're taking a very measured toward path success and building an organization."

- President of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo

"The ability to expand his game is the exciting part for me. For us to say, 'This is Jahlil and that's only Jahlil and this is all he will ever be,' is just sort of unfair and not true."

- Brown