Andrew Bynum to have surgery, miss rest of season

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Andrew Bynum to have surgery, miss rest of season

With just five home games remaining in the season and the Sixers struggling with a 25-40 record, the team officially announced the inevitable on Monday evening.

All-Star center Andrew Bynum will have surgery on both knees on Tuesday to clean out the damage that has plagued him since October.

Bynum, a free agent at the end of the season, may never play a game for the 76ers. He will have arthroscopic surgery on both knees to clean out loose bodies to, “alleviate the pain and swelling,” according to the Sixers. Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York will perform the surgery.

“We sort of sensed that as the season progressed and he’d make a little progress and then it slowed,” head coach Doug Collins said. “I think it got to the point in time where Andrew had to get something done. I feel badly that I didn’t get to coach him this year. I think he would have been an incredible player for us this year.”

Bynum suffered a bone bruise in his right knee in September while working out ahead of the season in Los Angeles. Initially, the Sixers believed Bynum would return in time for the season opener. But when Bynum injured his left knee while bowling in November, the return was pushed back to December.

Bynum’s self-proclaimed return dates were spotty at best and constantly moving further back seemingly with every update. Unable to practice through the first half of the season, Bynum’s first (and only) full workout with the Sixers in February left him with pain and a swollen knee in the aftermath.

After the March 1 update, Bynum was rarely seen by the media before games or sitting on the team bench during games. It’s not known how much he worked out with the team after that first practice.

“I’ve talked about this before. As a man who suffered injuries as a young player, it’s devastating,” Collins said. “I can only imagine what’s racing through his mind right now. I hope we all keep him in prayer. He’s not played for us this year, but he’s still a 76er. I hope he has successful surgery and hopefully his career can bounce back and he can be an effective player.”

Acquired in the four-team blockbuster trade in which the Sixers sent Andre Iguodala to Denver and their last two first-round picks, Moe Harkless and Nik Vucevic to Orlando, the Sixers had high hopes for this season. With Bynum in the middle anchoring both the offense and defense, Collins stated that he thought the Sixers could win 60 games.

It wasn’t meant to be.

“When you give up a lot for a player and he comes in and doesn’t play, I don’t think that people know the pain that player feels,” Collins said. “I think we look at it sometimes and see the player and his exterior and we don’t understand how he handles things internally. I know from talking to Andrew how badly he wanted to play this year and how badly he wanted to help us.”

Headed into Monday’s action, the Sixers were eight games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Sixers are left to wonder about what could have been. More than anything, the Sixers were missing a presence in the paint all season.

“It sucks. It sucks to hear just from a friend perspective,” All-Star guard Jrue Holiday said. “I don’t know what it’s like, so I’m just praying for him.”

Center Spencer Hawes stood to gain the most from playing alongside Bynum. With Bynum in the paint, Collins said he envisioned Hawes playing off of him the way Pau Gasol did with the Lakers. Instead, Hawes was forced to take over in the paint and share time at center with 6-foot-9 Lavoy Allen.

“It’s tough, but at the same time we never played with him. It’s just speculation from there,” Hawes said. “We know how bad he wanted to get out there, but sitting around and thinking about that isn’t going to bring him back any quicker.”

Or at all. Bynum earned $16.9 million in the last year of his contract this year. He can be an unrestricted free agent this summer and can command a big deal from any team starved for a big man.

In the meantime, the Sixers can apply to get some of the money they paid for Bynum salary back. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, after a player misses 41 games, a team gets 80 percent of the salary back. For the Sixers with Bynum, they will get back approximately $13.2 million.

Bynum gets paid in full.

And the Sixers can only dream about what might have been.

“Obviously, it’s sad,” Collins said. “It’s been a tough year for our franchise and it’s been tough year for Andrew.”

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid will miss the next four games and is slated to return March 3 against the Knicks in Philadelphia, so long as he is symptom-free. While Embiid wants to play as soon as possible, he’s just glad there is now a definitive timetable announced.

Prior to Thursday, the team had not announced a specific timeframe.

“I wasn’t too happy with the way it was kind of handled before,” Embiid said. “I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled.

“I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I’m happy that they did that today and they said that I’m out for the next four games.”

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion on Jan. 22 against the Trail Blazers. He sat out three games and returned on Jan. 27 to play the Rockets. He has not played since then, sitting out the last eight games.

An MRI also revealed Embiid has a slight tear in his meniscus, which is not thought to be related to the contusion.

Embiid went through a full practice on Thursday for the first time, he estimated, in four or five weeks. (Wednesday’s practice was not intense.) According to the Sixers, they are encouraged by the progress Embiid showed but do not feel he is game-ready. Team doctors are holding him out the next four games to minimize the risk of aggravating his knee. In order for him to be cleared, Embiid has to be symptom-free.

Embiid had eyed a return on Friday against the Wizards because he was feeling well, he said, but he had some swelling on Thursday.

“No swelling, no pain, nothing,” Embiid said of his criteria to play.

Now the team -- and fans -- can move forward without daily questions of Embiid’s status.

“I think it’s good for everybody,” Brett Brown said. “For you all to understand, the people that buying a ticket to understand, for me as a coach to prepare my team that he’s not going to be here for four more games. I like that clarity. I’m fine with it. Obviously, you want him playing, but the mystery that surrounds that speculation I think is frustrating for people and we understand that.”

Embiid reiterated the patience aspect of the injury, noting he waited two years to rehab his foot and there is no need to rush his knee. Now everyone can be in the loop with his status.

“The end point is basically making sure I’m ready to play instead of just putting me out there,” Embiid said.