Still Got a Season to Play: Sixers Host Cavs Amidst Bynum Weirdness

Still Got a Season to Play: Sixers Host Cavs Amidst Bynum Weirdness

Perhaps you've heard by now that as discouraging as the reports were
about Andrew Bynum being held out of basketball activity until at least
early December, the situation has already gotten way worse. On Friday it
was reported that Bynum had suffered a setback in his recovery, and now
his left knee now had a similar bruise to his right one. What happened?
Well, we're not sure exactly, but ESPN first reported that the injury occurred
while Bynum was bowling. Yes, bowling—like the sport with the pins and
the gutters and the disco nights and such. Hoooee. (Update: Bynum confirmed the bowling story to reporters before tonight's game.)

For now, the
Sixers are still holding to their original timetable with Bynum's
recovery, but we've already seen this movie once with the Sixers this
year, and it wouldn't be hugely surprising if the team continued to keep
Bynum's recovery process hush-hush as his expected return date came and
went without anything actually happening. Not to be fatalistic, but it
seems like a good time to start considering the possibility that Drew
never actually suits up for the SIxers this year—not yet a probability,
but one I don't think any Sixer fan would feel comfortable betting
against at this point.

Rather than just hold the fort until
Bynum's return, the Sixers probably now need to start thinking about
what their real goals are for this season if Andrew doesn't play this
year. Does the team shoot for a low playoff spot and an
all-but-guaranteed first-round playoff exit? Do they slip out of
contention, trade veterans for young players and draft picks, and maybe
try to strike gold in the lottery as they retool for next year? Do they
just do whatever possible to try to convince Bynum to re-sign with the
team after he becomes a free agent, regardless of his injury history?

I
don't have the answer to any of those, and I'd be surprised if the
Sixers do either. But in the meantime, the regular season marches on,
and tonight the Sixers face the Cleveland Cavaliers at the WFC. The Cavs
are far from a great team, and their bench is very likely the worst in
the entire league, but they're on their way to rebuilding, and they have
two players the Sixers should be seeing in their sleep after the game
tonight—sophomore sensation point guard Kyrie Irving, and the NBA's most
productive and prolific energy guy, big man Anderson Varejao.
Considering how badly the Sixers were beaten on the boards by the
Pistons a few games ago, Varejao (currently averaging nearly 13 boards a
game and five offensive) seems likely to be particularly problematic
for the undersized Ballers.

To win, the Sixers are gonna need
another huge game from Jrue Holiday, both checking Irving on defense and
making plays on offense. The Damaja was again masterful on Friday,
posting a 26-6-7 in 41 minutes of game action, including some huge
fourth-quarter buckets that helped quell a late Jazz rally and showed
his maturation as a go-to-guy down the stretch for the Sixers. It'd also
be quite nice to see Lavoy Allen continuing his hot play of late—after a
couple consecutive scoreless games, Allen has now hit double digits in
two straight, and seems to be getting his confidence back at the basket
and on the glass. We'll need him against Varejao and fellow Cavs
seven-footer Tyler Zeller tonight, certainly.

Early 6:00 tip
from the WFC. The Sixers franchise is in a really weird place right now,
but it's not crisis time just yet. Until the worst is confirmed, all
the team can do is win the games they can, continue to push for a
playoff spot, and hope to get Bynum back and acclimated in time to try
to make some actual noise in the post-season. And we really, really really hope that the worst doesn't get confirmed.

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.