Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers' Off-Season: #1. What About Andrew?

Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers' Off-Season: #1. What About Andrew?

This guy. After holding the Sixers hostage for the entirety of the 2012-13 season--maybe his fault, probably not totally--Bynum will continue to have the team in his grasp until at least July 1st, when free agency begins and Sam Hinkie and company can figure out whether or not the Funny Looking Kid With the Big Hair is gonna be a part of this team's future. In the meantime, every major decision this team has to make--from what to do about Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, to who to draft or attempt to trade for, even to who is gonna be our coach next season--depends on whether or not Bynum sees his fro's shadow at the beginning of next month.

Andrew is not only the biggest wildcard of the Sixers' off-season, but the biggest unknown in all free agency. In his list of the 20 best available big man free agents, SI's Rob Mahoney decided not to even rank Bynum, saying "it’s impossible to know where he fits into the free agent landscape or to predict what an interested franchise might offer." Too true--there's little precedent on the open market for a proven, talented, still-pretty-young big man with degenerative knee issues who didn't play a single game the year before. He's the ultimate risk/reward gambit, a guy who could very feasibly be the steal of the off-season or a franchise-crippling disaster. I could see him signing an incentive-laden deal somewhere for three years and $40 million, and I could see him landing a five-year, $85 million deal from a team desperate for a shot at relevance. The only thing certain with Andrew is that he's going to cause some team a whole lot of regret this summer--possibly because they had the chance to sign him and didn't, and possibly because they had the chance to sign him and did.

Where do the Sixers fit in with all this? Well, as Hinkie stated in his introductory press conference, the Sixers do have two advantages when it comes to dealing with Bynum--they can negotiate with him before any other team, and they have more information about his current and ongoing health status than any other team. (They can also offer him a larger max contract than any other team, in the somewhat unlikely situation that it comes to that). But otherwise, they're just one of many suitors Bynum will likely have this off-season, a spate of partially or totally rebuilding teams with room for improvement in the middle, a list which may also include the Rockets, Mavericks, Cavaliers, and who knows who else. There's no reason to believe he'll be naturally inclined to lean towards signing with the Sixers, and the idea that he might give Philly a break out of some feeling that he "owes" us for not playing at all last year is, uh...well, we wouldn't bank on it, anyway.

Of course, there's probably some residual feeling among certain pockets of the Sixers faithful that we shouldn't even try to re-sign the controversial big man. Drew didn't exactly do a ton to ingratiate himself to the fanbase while riding the pine last year, and the more ridiculous stories and videos that leaked regarding Bynum over the course of the season--bowling, flamenco dancing, lawsuits involving the song "Currency" by Trina--the more a lot of fans wished the guy would just go away already. Even when healthy, Bynum has a reputation as an eccentric, to say the least, and there would be concerns about how his attitude would clash with the fanbase. Combine that with all the injury concerns, and news that TFLKWTBH had signed for big money elsewhere would probably be cheered by many in the City of Brotherly Love.

But as I've cautioned for the entire season, and will continue to do so now, be careful to cut bait too quickly with Andrew. There aren't a lot of quality big men available throughout the league, and arguably none who have Bynum's upside when healthy. The alternative to re-signing Bynum is to sign, trade for or draft a big who gives you at best, maybe 2/3 of what you get with a healthy Bynum--the scoring ability and fit but not the youth (Al Jefferson), the youth and the offensive talent but not the right fit (Josh Smith), or the youth and the upside but not the proven track record (Alex Len, Nerlens Noel or any number of other draft prospects). The Sixers have some good players, but they're still badly starved for elite talent, which you really need to be a factor in this league. To discard a player like Bynum, an All-NBA performer when right, just because he's a headache to deal with...it's pretty short-sighted.

So does that mean we should do what it takes to re-sign him, potentially at any cost? Well, not necessarily, and a lot of that depends on Hinkie's long-term plan for the team, and the Sixers' inside knowledge of his knee(s) situation. The fact that we haven't heard anything about Bynum or whatever progress he is or isn't making these last few months would lead me to believe he's not exactly right as rain, yet, but that doesn't mean he's dead to the world exactly either. More importantly, Hinkie might conclude that even with a healthy Bynum, the Sixers would be too far away from real contention, leading him to conclude that stripping the team down and rebuilding through the draft would be a likelier path to relevance than investing in a huge question mark like Andrew.

Personally, I'd say that if they can convince him to sign a short-term deal--something for just two or three years--then they should probably sign him, almost regardless of his health concerns or the possible price tag. If he's healthy, then maybe he, Jrue, Thad and (in a super-perfect world) Evan can grow together as a young core of a team that can be competitive in the east for years to follow. If not, then we're probably not going to be competitive for the next three years anyway, and we can just strip away loose parts, pile up losses and draft picks over the duration of his contract, and reset in the Summer of 2016. It's far from a foolproof strategy, but it might be the highest-percentage play, and that's probably what Hinkie is looking for this off-season.

But if I had to guess, I don't think that's what's going to happen. I think ultimately, Drew will want the years, and he'll get them from someone, but not from Hinkie, who'll just see the injury risk as too great for a four or five-year commitment. Bynum will officially leave Philadelphia without having played a single game for us, and without us getting any kind of assets in return to replace those (Iguodala, Harkless, Vucevic, future 1sts) that we gave up for him. That would be an incredibly sad state of affairs, obviously, but throwing bad money after good just to "get something out of the deal" would be a gross miscalculation that our Smart Guy GM is probably too smart to make.

Still, I'd like to see Bynum in a Sixers jersey next season if at all possible. C'mon, Andrew. Think about how much fun you'll have going to wrestling events with Spence and Evan. Plus, if you're not too traumatized to get back into rolling, Wynnewood Lanes is really the shit.

Roob's 25 Random Points: Marcus Smith, Phillies, Jim Bunning, Paul Simon & more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Marcus Smith, Phillies, Jim Bunning, Paul Simon & more

The Phillies have won precisely three games since my last 25 Random Points two weeks ago. So look for a lot of Phillies thoughts among the usual Eagles, music and miscellaneous nonsense this time around.
 
We’ve got some Paul Simon, some Jim Bunning, some Marcus Smith and much more. Dig in!
 
1. I can't get too worked up about Fletcher Cox missing OTAs. I'd like to see him there. He should be there. But it's May. And I also can't get too worked up about Donnie Jones or Jason Peters missing OTAs. A couple guys in their mid-30s who can probably use the time off. They'll be fine. But what on earth is Marcus Smith doing? What is he thinking? Now, maybe there's a perfectly good personal reason Smith was away for the voluntary workouts. Head coach Doug Pederson didn't even mention Smith last Tuesday when asked about minicamp no-shows. But if he's just staying away for no reason other than he didn't feel like practicing, then you've really got to wonder where his mind is at. This is a former first-round pick who has four career sacks in three seasons. The Eagles have Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett ahead of him. They signed a guy at his position and drafted a guy in the first round at his position. He should be doing everything imaginable right now to try to save not just his roster spot but to save his career. The odds are heavily against Smith right now. He should be doing every single thing imaginable to get better and impress his coaches. Marcus is a good kid, and I want to root for him, but he's making it really hard.
 
2. Pete Mackanin is a very nice guy, but it's obvious the Phillies have to make a change. And now would be a good time for it. The Phils are comatose. The slump going into Monday night is now 6-22 in their last 28 games following that 11-9 start. How do you even go 6-22? In a six-game stretch that ended Saturday, they had nine runs and 28 hits. In six games! That's an average of 4.7 hits and 1.5 runs over a six-game span. They haven't won back-to-back games in more than a month. Their hitting is terrible, their pitching is worse, and they look like they just have no interest in playing baseball. Once-promising young players are regressing, and they're 17-31 and on pace to go 57-105, which would be their worst season in 56 years and second-worst in 72 years. How do you get three-hit four times in six days? The baseball-reference database only goes back to 1913, but last week was the first time since at least then — 105 years — the Phils have been three-hit four times in a six-game span. This team is dead. Time for a change. And it's got to happen soon.
 
3. Here's a sign of how dead the Phillies are: They don't have a stolen base in their last 13 games. Granted, they haven't had a ton of baserunners, but they are just stagnant as a team, and the absence of a single stolen base since May 14 is pretty good evidence of that. Their last longer stretch without a stolen base was a 14-game streak in 1998. Before that, you have to go back to a 17-game streak in 1973. Stagnant. Static. Utterly lacking in energy. When a team is struggling to score runs — and the Phillies are sure struggling to score runs — you try to manufacture runs every way possible. The absence of a single stolen base over the past two weeks (they have attempted three) reflects poorly both on the roster and the manager.
 
4. And how on earth do you lose nine consecutive series?
 
5. I’m very curious to see what the Eagles get out of LeGarrette Blount this year. Blount is going from a Super Bowl team to a team in transition, he’s 30 years old, he’s with his fourth team in six years. The history of running backs after they turn 30 isn’t pretty. This could go either way. He could be a stud or he could be a disaster. I would have been happy to go with Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, Darren Sproles and possibly Corey Clement just to see what the young guys can do. It will be interesting to see what Blount brings the Eagles and how much of a workload he's given. Last year was the first time since 2011 Blount averaged over 13 carries per game. If I were Doug Pederson, I'd be careful not to go much higher than that.
 
6. One thing about Blount last year. Everybody talks about the 18 touchdowns. But in his last seven games, Blount averaged just 3.0 yards per carry — worst in the NFL during that span. Did he wear down? Seems that way.
 
7. And here's the other thing. When you sign guys like Chris Long, Blount, Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffrey, you better make the playoffs. You don't add those sort of veterans on both sides of the football if you're in that rebuilding mode Howie Roseman has been talking about all offseason. I don't want to hear a word about rebuilding. Go win some football games.
 
8. The last time the Eagles played a game with two starting cornerbacks who they drafted was Dec. 23, 2007, a 38-23 win over the Saints at the Superdome. Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. There were two games in 2008 when Lito started in the slot alongside Sheldon and Asante Samuel, but it’s been 10 years since they started two homegrown outside cornerbacks. Does anything better represent the Eagles’ misguided attempts to build a roster through free agency than that? Here’s a prediction: Once the Eagles get back to homegrown corners — whether it’s Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas this year or Sidney Jones and Douglas or Mills next year — they will once again be a playoff team.
 
9. Southampton is not a particularly large or distinctive town in Bucks County, but it's astonishing how many fantastic, innovative bands have come out of that little town. It started with Dandelion and continued with bands like La Guardia, Ty Cobb (later known as the Cobbs), Mad Action, Trip 66, Illinois and Eastern Conference Champions. And several of those guys are huge now. Panic at the Disco tours arenas, and their drummer, Dan Pawlovich, is a former guitarist with Illinois. Former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher formed a band called Beady Eye. Their bass player Jay Mehler, who had been in Kasabian, is a former member of Ty Cobb and Mad Action. Josh Ostrander had a No. 1 hit called "Shine" this spring with his new band Mondo Cozmo and has been playing every festival in the country the past month. He's a former member of La Guardia and the Cobbs and fronted Eastern Conference Champions and has used some of the guys from Illinois in his recent live shows. The Cobbs just came out of nowhere and toured large venues with the Jesus and Mary Chain. It's just fascinating to me that this anonymous little community of strip plazas and impossible left turns along Street Road in Bucks County has produced so much fantastic music. You expect it from places like New York, Detroit and L.A. But Southampton? No wonder they call it Rockhampton.
 
10. I know I'm in the minority here, but I think Chip Kelly will be terrific as an NFL analyst. Chip was always an engaging personality, and I think that will come across in the studio. He sees the game a little differently, and that will serve him well. Chip doesn't think in cliches and doesn't see the game in cliches. He's always been able to articulate complicated concepts fairly simply and clearly. And he's funny. Chip has some credibility — he was 26-21 as Eagles head coach with two 10-win seasons and a playoff berth his first year. His issues were really as a general manager and he was a disaster there. But he's a tremendous storyteller, he's got an astonishing memory, he's always prepared and he knows way more about the history of the NFL than you'd expect. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes for him.
 
11. I don't want to hear anybody complain that concerts are too expensive. You can see free music just about any night this summer somewhere around Philly. There's the Thursday night series of free shows at Spruce Street Harbor, featuring some awesome local artists (including Spirit of the Beehive, Straw Hats and Chill Moody), there are free shows every Friday starting at 5 p.m. in West Philadelphia atop Cira Green, which is on 30th Street between Walnut and Chestnut, and there are shows just about every night at Rose Tree Park in Media. For schedules and more info, click here for Spruce Street Harbor, click here for Rose Tree Park and click here for Cira Green. See ya there!
 
12. "Up the Junction" by Squeeze is just about the saddest song ever.
 
13. I think Isaac Seumalo at left guard for Allen Barbre is a bigger upgrade than the Eagles will admit.
 
14. It'll be interesting to see what a (presumably) non-supplemented Lane Johnson plays like. A lot was made last year about how the Eagles were 5-1 when Johnson played last year and 2-8 when he didn't. But remember those five wins included games against the 1-15 Browns, 3-13 Bears and Cowboys scrubs. The Eagles could have won those games with Antone Davis at right tackle. Still, this is a dramatically better offensive line with Johnson out there, and with Jason Peters, Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Johnson, this is potentially a very good O-line. Kelce is a wild card, and I'm still not convinced he'll be here, but if he is, he's just got to be more consistent.
 
15. My top-10 bands from the17th annual non-COMM music conference two weeks ago at World Café Live: 1. Mondo Cozmo 2. Dream Syndicate 3. Lo Moon 4. Bash & Pop 5. Blondie 6. The Districts 7. Robert Cray 8. The Pixies 9. Nancy and Beth 10. Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band.
 
16. Have you ever just stopped and just thought about how many incredible songs Paul Simon has written? Mrs. Robinson, the Boxer, America, Homeward Bound, Hazy Shade of Winter, I Am a Rock, Bridge over Troubled Water, Sound of Silence. And that's just with Simon & Garfunkle. His solo career was incredibly inventive as well. He was releasing singles in the 1970s and 1980s that were unlike anything else anybody was doing — Mother and Child Reunion, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, Loves me Like a Rock, Kodachrome, Late in the Evening … I think sometimes we hear songs so many times that we kind of become immune to their brilliance. But Simon's body of work holds up remarkably well more than half a century after he started out.
 
17.
I have this recurring dream where I'm covering the Super Bowl for CSN and the game's about to start, and I can't find my laptop, and I'm running from room to room in some stadium looking for the garment bag that I've inexplicably placed my laptop in. I'm sure somebody could analyze all that and tell me what it means, but all I know is I never find it and wake up in a panic.
 
18. LeBron James has won a round in the postseason 18 times since the Eagles have won a round in the postseason.
 
19. In March 2013, Ray Didinger and I were hosting a radio show on 94 WIP at the Valley Forge Convention Center during the annual Valley Forge Sportscard and Memorabilia Show. There were autograph tables to our left, and show organizers had set up interviews for us with a couple of the celebrities signing that morning — Doc Gooden and Steve Bedrosian among them. One guy who was signing who wasn't scheduled to join us on the air was Jim Bunning. But when he was finished signing, he just wandered over to our table and said hi. We invited him on the air, and he was happy to do it. We mic'ed him up, and he proceeded to regale us with stories about his career for the next 15 minutes or so. It was a magical day, and Bunning could not have been nicer. I'm too young to really remember him as a Hall of Fame pitcher, but I'll never forget the few minutes I got to spend with him that day in Valley Forge. A true gentleman. My condolences go out to his family.
 
20. Saw Blondie two weeks ago. Incredible. Debbie Harry is 71 and up there rockin' like she's 21. Her band is amazing, too, with original members Chris Stein and Clem Burke as good as ever. That's 28 Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famers I've seen live now: Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, BB King, Beach Boys [Brian Wilson], Black Sabbath, Blondie, Bobby Blue Bland, The Clash, Donovan, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, the Kinks, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Pretenders, Bonnie Raitt, the Rascals, Lou Reed, REM, Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, Santana, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, U2 and the Who. How many have you seen? I'll bet it's more than you think!
 
21. How many more weeks till the NBA finals start?
 
22. Philadelphia's four major professional head coaches/managers — Dave Hakstol, Brett Brown, Doug Pederson and Pete Mackanin — have never advanced past the first round in the playoffs.
 
23. This is the first time in the 50 years that Philadelphia has had four major professional sports teams that Random Point No. 22 has been true.
 
24. If the Eagles don't reach the playoffs in 2017, it will be four straight years without a postseason appearance. The last time that happened was 1982 through 1987. Yep, 30 years ago.
 
25. How about my favorite all-time concerts by state:

Arizona – Bottle Rockets

California – Bye Bye Blackbirds

Connecticut – Wilco

Delaware – Connor Oberst

Florida – Santana

Georgia – Robert Pollard

Illinois – Guided by Voices

Indianapolis – Matt Keating

Maine – Steve Earle

Maryland – B.B. King

Massachusetts – Sourpatch

Michigan – From Indian Lakes

Missouri – Bob Walkenhorst

New York – Genesis

New Jersey – Yes

Ohio – Muddy Waters

Pennsylvania – The Rave-Ups

Texas – They Might Be Giants

Virginia – Rainmakers

Washington – James McMurtry