No Bynum means no relevance for Sixers

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No Bynum means no relevance for Sixers

Andrew Bynum was supposed to talk on Monday. He didn’t. Something happened. Something always happens with Bynum -- except playing basketball. That never happens. Not this year. Not so far.

So he didn’t talk on Monday. On Tuesday, before the Sixers faced the Magic in a game that no semi-sane person would willingly watch, reporters surrounded Bynum’s locker at the Wells Fargo Center. This is SOP (standard operating procedure) for BTD (Bynum Talking Day). We waited. Then we waited some more. Bynum never showed. Then the locker room closed because media hours were over.

Don’t feel bad for us. This isn’t about that. This is about Bynum and his team and what happened next -- or, rather, what didn’t. The reporters waited outside the locker room and hoped Bynum would materialize and talk because, well, it’s the Sixers and what else is there to write about a going-nowhere team playing another going-nowhere team in late February? Exactly. Not much. Not anything, really.

So we waited. After a while, a Sixers PR handler materialized and told us that Bynum would not talk on Tuesday after all. We were told he would talk Wednesday after practice. Then we were told there wouldn’t be practice on Wednesday and that Bynum won't talk until Friday. That’s the current plan -- Friday. But you know how plans and Bynum get along (hint: not well).

According to the PR person, Bynum apologized “for not being here sooner.” I assume he meant on Tuesday, but he could just as easily have been talking about the entire season. Bynum also wasn’t on the bench for the Sixers' 98-84 loss to the Magic (see game recap). That sparked a conversation on Twitter and press row about where he was (supposedly in the building) and why he wasn’t sitting with the team (supposedly getting treatment).

That’s when it occurred to me: The semi-regular Bynum updates/sightings are the only things keeping the Sixers relevant.

Imagine how bleak the Sixers’ situation would be if they didn’t have a giant 25-year-old with two question marks for knees to dangle in front of us every week or so. If Bynum wasn’t on the roster, if the mystery about him didn’t exist, the fire for professional basketball in this town would have already gone out. As it is, the embers are barely glowing, and that’s only because Bynum remains a curiosity and a concern.

The Sixers missed a grand opportunity this year to increase interest in the team. There was a monstrous void for months with nothing even remotely compelling or promising to fill it. The Eagles had a horrible season. The Flyers were in a lockout. The Phils were on hiatus after a disappointing campaign. And the Sixers still couldn’t get the fans or the media to focus on them. The one lasting storyline this season has been Bynum and his unknown return date.

Sports are ultimately entertainment. It is why the Sixers built the world’s largest T-shirt cannon and fire off confetti after inconsequential wins and hand out Big Macs when the team scores 100 points. It’s part of the show. When the actors and the plot aren’t very good, you need something else to get people inside the theater.

About that: attendance numbers are tricky. More than once, someone with the Sixers told me their figures in that department are up this year from last year. Having been in the building for all but a few home games, I find that hard to believe. So do the people who track these things. According to them, the Sixers averaged 17,502 fans last season (14th in the NBA). This year, those same people have the Sixers averaging around 16,400 (19th).

But whether the attendance is better or worse doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is that the attendance isn’t good. It’s why Sixers CEO Adam Aron went on Twitter recently and gave away free lower bowl tickets to 12 fans -- because the seats were available. He could have given away 120 or 1,200 seats without issue.

Which brings us back to Bynum. His saga -- his knees and what the Sixers knew and when they knew it and whether he and/or the team misled the town -- is the only thing that gets anyone to glance (however momentarily) in the Sixers' direction these days. Without him -- or, rather, without his mouth and his hair and his off-court antics -- the Sixers would be completely ignored instead of mostly ignored. How grim.

Forget about a tree falling in the woods. Here’s a better question, one you and the Sixers already know the answer to: If a giant tree of a man doesn’t play and doesn’t talk, does his team make a sound?

Jahlil Okafor trade watch: Bulls reportedly unwilling to trade first-round pick

Jahlil Okafor trade watch: Bulls reportedly unwilling to trade first-round pick

With the NBA trade deadline nearly upon us — 3 p.m. Thursday — here is the latest on Jahlil Okafor. (We'll update this with news on Okafor throughout the afternoon.)

• The Bulls are still pushing to acquire Okafor, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Chicago has been one of the rumored destinations for weeks — in fact, the Bulls were reported as a suitor for Okafor before the Pelicans, Blazers and Pacers.

• What's the hold-up? According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls "have shown no inclination to this point of including" their first-round pick, along with a player, which is what the Sixers have been seeking for Okafor.

Johnson notes that forward Nikola Mirotic is available. Mirotic, 26, is a restricted free agent after the season. With Ersan Ilyasova traded to Atlanta Wednesday night, perhaps the Sixers could look at Mirotic as a backup four to Dario Saric. 

Mirotic's value is in his outside shooting — he's a 6-foot-10 forward who made 39 percent of his threes last season. But his numbers have dipped across the board this season and he's shooting just 38 percent from the field and 30 percent from three.

• According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Okafor's preferred landing spot is Chicago, his hometown.

• Obviously, it's not up to Jah — the Sixers will go with whichever offer is best.

5 things to know about new Sixers big man Tiago Splitter

5 things to know about new Sixers big man Tiago Splitter

Whether or not the Sixers keep Tiago Splitter after acquiring him from the Hawks for Ersan Ilyasova has not been determined (see story). In the meantime, get to know the newest member of the team.

Splitter already knows his coach
Brett Brown was working on the Spurs’ coaching staff when Splitter began playing for the team in 2010. Splitter was a member of the 2013 Spurs squad that won the championship the year after Brown departed to coach the Sixers. 

Another international addition
This season, half of the Sixers’ roster is comprised of international players. Splitter is from Brazil and played on the national team. He was unable to compete in the Olympics last summer because of hip surgery. Splitter also played overseas in Europe before coming to the NBA. The location on his Twitter profile is “Smwhere in Usa or Brazil.” 

First-rounder in ‘07
Splitter did not play his rookie season until 2010, but he was drafted in 2007. The Spurs selected Splitter with the 28th overall pick. He was chosen one pick after Arron Afflalo and one before Alando Tucker. That is the same draft in which the Sixers chose Daequan Cook at No. 21 and traded him to the Heat for Jason Smith. 

Splitter on the mic
Nik Stauskas isn’t the only member of the Sixers with a broadcasting résumé anymore. Splitter made appearances on the Hawks’ television broadcast this season and also for a Brazilian network during 2016 Summer Olympics.

#RAISETHE …?
Will Splitter raise the cat? He’s already raised his five-month-old puppy in this recent Instagram post. 

Será que esta grande o Buddy? #5meses #dog He keeps growing 😱

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