Four scenarios for Sixers to resolve Bynum situation

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Four scenarios for Sixers to resolve Bynum situation

The Sixers will return to the court on Saturday night. Andrew Bynum will not.

The Sixers have 22 wins and 30 losses. They have been an up-and-down (mostly down) team, a hit-or-miss (mostly miss) squad in the midst of an unspectacular season that is quickly funneling toward a conclusion that won’t include the playoffs unless something spectacular and unexpected happens.

That spectacular and unexpected thing would be Bynum getting healthy and playing well and carrying the listless Sixers on a back supported by two bad knees. On Tuesday, Bynum said he’s 100 percent certain he’ll play this year. You’re forgiven if you’re 100 percent skeptical.

Not long ago, Bynum said he hoped to return right after the All-Star break. Then, he modified his schedule and said the “target” for his return was February. And now he says he won’t practice for a week or two, which would put him into March.

The Sixers have 30 games remaining. If Bynum doesn’t practice for another two weeks, that would be around March 8. There are nine games between now and then. Delete them all, and the Sixers would be down to 21 games. But then Bynum would have to practice for a little while before competing. Subtract at least another week -- at least three more outings -- and the Sixers would have 18 games remaining before Bynum plays. That’s if all goes well, which it hasn’t so far.

This thing is a huge mess. There are four possible scenarios now. None of them are good for the Sixers.

Bynum plays and the Sixers don’t re-sign him
Even if he can get on the court for the last 18 games (I’d take the under on that number if you’re a gambler), that’s such a small sample size that it would be impossible to know how (or if) he’ll hold up next year and the year after and the year after that. He’s 25, he has two bad knees and he’s already missed the majority of this season. That hardly inspires confidence.

Bynum is a free agent after this year. If the Sixers let him walk, or if he decides to walk on his own, the team would clear about $16.4 million off the books. That would give the organization money to spend in free agency. The problem is that the 2013 free agent class isn’t tailored to the Sixers’ many needs.

Top-tier players like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul aren’t coming to Philadelphia. The more you look at the list, the more you’ll see that the Sixers would be down to courting guys such as Josh Smith or Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap. Even if one of them excites you, are any of them worth big-money contracts? And do any of them make the Sixers contenders in the East? (The answer to both questions is no.)

Bynum plays and the Sixers re-sign him
During All-Star weekend, Kobe Bryant told Dei Lynam that Bynum “is a phenomenal player.” What he should have said: Bynum “was a phenomenal player.” We know what he used to be. We don’t know what he is at the moment, and we don’t know what he will (or won’t) be in the future. 

If Bynum returns and plays around 18 games, how can the Sixers possibly use such a limited audition to evaluate his health and worth? Last year, in a lockout-shortened season, Bynum played 60 regular-season games and 12 more in the postseason. He looked good and healthy. Then, he came to Philly and looked the opposite. If you couldn’t predict his value after 72 games, how can you do it after, at most, 18? And then, if they do re-sign him, what if this tiresome saga drags out and his health continues to be a problem? It would be disastrous on the court, and it would be equally damaging to the franchise from a PR perspective.

Bynum doesn’t play and the Sixers don’t re-sign him
This might be the best outcome for the Sixers. Even though the 2013 free agent class appears to have limited options for them, the Sixers would at least get someone healthy. Ostensibly. You can apparently never be too sure these days.

After a year of bad publicity in which media members and fans have criticized the Sixers, this might be the easiest one to spin. It’s the cut-their-losses scenario. The Sixers admit they gambled and lost, then resolve to move on with a different, less-perilous plan.

Bynum doesn’t play and the Sixers re-sign him
For the Sixers, this is the go-for-broke/in-for-a-penny, in-for-millions-of-dollars-more gambit. It would be the basketball equivalent of buying an expensive lottery ticket, scratching off the panel with glee, losing, frowning and then buying the same lottery ticket again -- only for more money while knowing that, if it doesn’t pay off this time, you’re going to end up in an NBA soup kitchen for many years to come.

“Would I be a risk?" Bynum asked. “I don’t know because I don’t do risk assessment.”

I don’t do risk assessment. You probably don’t, either. And yet everyone knows Bynum is a huge risk -- everyone but Bynum and the Sixers, evidently.

None of these scenarios are good. The Sixers are in a horrible spot and they’re facing an impossible decision with no right or clear answer. If I was a member of the front office and I had to pick one of the above possibilities, I’d lean toward the third. It’s the easiest way out for everyone -- which isn’t the same as ensuring the best conclusion to this frightful tale.

The Sixers have written a choose-their-own-adventure novel. They will be forced to pick a path and turn the page soon. The problem is that all of their options are ugly and fraught with danger.

Best of NBA: John Wall, Wizards hold on to beat Cavaliers

Best of NBA: John Wall, Wizards hold on to beat Cavaliers

CLEVELAND -- John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington's victory cut Cleveland's lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston (see full recap).

Clippers beat Jazz to clinch playoff berth
LOS ANGELES -- Jamal Crawford scored 28 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Utah Jazz 108-95 on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight year.

The Clippers trail the Jazz by a half-game in their race for the No. 4 playoff seed in the West.

Blake Griffin added 15 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers.

Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, and reserve Joe Johnson added 17 points. The Jazz have dropped four of five.

Utah rallied in the third, putting together a 20-6 spurt to trim Los Angeles' lead to 72-70 heading into the final period. Gobert had nine points and Johnson scored seven during the run that included 10 straight points for the Jazz over one stretch.

Chris Paul and Crawford both got technicals while the Clippers struggled to score and defend (see full recap).

Leonard, Aldridge help Spurs topple Knicks
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the New York Knicks 106-98 on Saturday night.

San Antonio has won four straight heading into home games against Cleveland on Monday and Golden State on Wednesday. The Spurs (56-16) are two games behind the Warriors (58-14) for the league's best record.

San Antonio ensured there would not be a repeat of its disappointing 94-90 loss in New York on Feb. 12, but not without some tense moments.

Derrick Rose and Willy Hernangomez each scored 24 points and Hernangomez added 13 rebounds. Mindaugas Kuzminskas had 19 points starting in place of Carmelo Anthony, who missed his second straight game with a sore left knee (see full recap).

How the Sixers watch the NCAA Tournament, from scouting to reliving

How the Sixers watch the NCAA Tournament, from scouting to reliving

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Tournament is a different viewing experience for everyone. To some it is a chance to root for an alma mater, to others is a glimpse into future NBA talent, and for the small handful that makes it to the pros, a reminder of moments they cherished. 

From players to the head coach, March Madness has an individual meaning to the Sixers.

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The draft has been just as much a part of Brett Brown's time with the Sixers as the regular season. The Sixers have been perennial top pick contenders and could be heavily involved in the 2017 draft lottery. They have their own first-round pick and rights to swap with the Kings. They also could get the Lakers' pick if it is outside of the top three. 

How does Brown watch college basketball this time of year? 

"Like I'm going to coach one of them," he said. "You pay attention."

Rather than trying to read into the intangibles, such as being a good teammate or competitiveness, Brown hones in on one skill that he can assess quickly. 

"I'm always paying attention to shooters," Brown said. "It really does, on so many levels, make the world go 'round. It especially does with the group that we're constructing … I'm very opinionated when it comes to shooting. I feel like if I see somebody shoot three or four times and just watch their form, their footwork, their preparation, you form a pretty quick opinion. It takes you about a second to look at their stats and it helps you validate what you think or contradict what you think. But shooters really are what's most on my mind."

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It was only three seasons ago that Jahlil Okafor was cutting down the nets as an NCAA championship winner. Okafor considers the Duke basketball circle as family and spends his summers on campus. Watching the tournament from a distance stirs up old feelings that really aren't so old. 

"It kind of makes me sad because I want to be out there with my guys," Okafor said. "It makes me a little sad, especially when they lose (second-seeded Duke lost to South Carolina in the second round). It's always fun to watch. I'm so closely removed from it and I'm friends with all those guys on the team."

Okafor said coach Mike Krzyzewski has changed up the system, which was heavily focused on getting him the ball at the basket since he left after his freshman year. The excitement of March Madness, though, still feels very familiar. 

"Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday, sometimes it feels like it was 20 years ago," Okafor said. "It feels like I was just in the tournament."

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Nik Stauskas will always be attached to Michigan basketball. This season was significant because the teammates he played with before entering the draft in 2014 were still part of the program. 

"It's going to change next year because it will be the first year that I will have not played with anyone on that team," Stauskas said. "But as of right now, I still feel such a huge connection. Most of the coaches are still the same, most of the main players were guys I played with my sophomore year."

Michigan upset Louisville in the second round before losing to Oregon by one point in the Sweet 16. Stauskas was watching along from the Sixers' road trip. 

"To see them make the run, I'm extremely proud," he said. "I don't get emotionally attached to basketball games unless it's Michigan playing. It's fun to be that involved and that engaged into a name."