"Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, youre my only hope."
For the uninitiated, this is Princess Leias plea in the original 1977 classic "Star Wars." The princess needs Obi-Wans help in fighting the evil Empire for fear that all will be lost...
This is where we are two games short of the halfway point of the regular season. Only in this version, 76ers fans are making the entreaty and Andrew Bynum is the savior.
Bynum is cast in this role because he might very well be the Sixers' only hope to salvage the season. His team is 16-23, four games behind Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Sixteen wins, 23 losses. As we often quote Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are.
Tuesday's home loss to New Orleans is the Sixers' season in a petri dish. They allowed the young Hornets, a team that averages only 92 points per game, to score 111. The visitors 53-percent shooting was epitomized by their constant ability to get dribble penetration into the lane. The Sixers were outrebounded by 16 and once again yielded more free throws than they were able to draw.
Defense. Rebounding. Lack of free throws. All constant themes through these first 39 games.
To say that Bynum is a panacea might be a little much, but he could certainly help in these areas. His shot-blocking and seven-foot, 285-pound frame should be enough to give lane invaders second thoughts. Last year he averaged 11.5 rebounds per game. He also got to the line nearly six times per contest, which would be tops on this Sixers team by far. And we havent even touched on the offensive end, where his post presence would open up the court for his teammates.
Lamenting Bynums absence and the problems in both knees that have caused him to miss these first 39 games would be counter-productive. Instead, the Sixers need to somehow steel themselves until he plays. In Bynums own words, that would be around the All-Star break. Assuming his first game is Feb. 20 at Minnesota, the first game after the break, heres the way it would break down:
Total games remaining: 43
Games remaining before the break: 12 (10 home, two road)
Games with Bynum starting Feb. 20: 31 (12 home, 19 road)
Assuming a .500 record gets you the eighth and final playoff spot, the Sixers would need to find a way to go 25-18 in their final 43 games. That would be a virtual reversal of their season to this point. While anything is possible, its a tall task that seems now to be dependent in large measure on a rather tall man who still might be a month away. And once he does return, no one can say how much Bynum will be able to produce. But the view from here says it may very well be the only hope.
Marc Zumoff is the Sixers' play-by-play announcer on Comcast SportsNet.