We've had some time to digest the fact that Andrew Bynum did indeed suffer a setback while bowling. And while BOWLO was, at first, spit-takingly hilarious, the spit shine has worn off and reality has set in. There's a good chance that Bynum's knee injuries will prevent him from playing for the Sixers at all this season and maybe ever. That is crushing.
I imagine this is what killing a guy while on ecstasy feels like. Last night it was a hell of a rush but waking up to this new world where everything is awful and I'm not hopped up on drugs is debilitating. The flawed morality of that metaphor should give you a sense as to what sort of mindset this has put me in.
I'm going to take a quick second to summon up all the self-pity bile I have in my digestive tracts and spew it out here. Let's just get it out of our system, okay?
This isn't fair. I am legitimately sad right now. We do not deserve this. The ownership, to an extent, does not deserve this. They should have been more forthright about his injury (they're saying January was the plan the whole time but I seem to remember them saying he was going to play OPENING NIGHT like a week beforehand) but I suppose I can't fault them too much for trying to sell tickets even though it didn't work -- WFC's empty as hell. The ownership came in, changed everything for the better, and made one of the philosophically smartest trades in franchise history. Then comes this punch in the dick.
The Lakers are all like "well that's what you get with Bynum" but they also got two championship rings with him. So they simply cannot empathize with us quite yet. Thus far, we have his hair and "Pressure Makes Diamonds." Both of those are fantastic and I cherish them dearly, but I would very much like to see him play basketball for my favorite team now, thank you. Then we can talk about taking the good with the bad.
And the fact that the Eagles are doing things to a bed that I cannot utter here, in addition to a majorly disappointing Phillies season and no season at all for the Flyers, being a Philadelphia fan is extremely taxing at the moment. This is the pits.
End pity. Begin multiple series of If, Then statements.
The issue now is what the organization should do going forward. Neither you nor I have any idea whether or not Andrew will play this season. I still have a few shreds of optimism left that make me think he'll be back by February, but they're hanging by a thread.
If we assume that Bynum does take the court come February and finish out a respectable year for the Sixers (maybe a playoff win or two), then I don't think there's any question about signing him to a max contract. Everything in the NBA is a risk and if Andrew can prove he's healthy enough to play, there is absolutely no excuse to let him walk. Unless the relationship between Drew and the Sixers gets worse (could it?), I don't think they'd let a mostly healthy, mostly happy Bynum leave freely.
But the darker alternative is far more sinister. If Andy fails to take the court a single time in a Sixers uniform, they will certainly be forced to make a difficult decision. Basketball purists, I'd assume, would scream for prudence and discipline. Bynum (AKA The Idiot) is not only a complete headcase, but a headcase with the princess's matched luggage worth of injury baggage. Having some degree of degenerative arthritis at age 25, even for a 7-foot human who plays basketball for a living, is far from ideal. And investing all the money in the world in him for five years won't be worth a Canadian twoney if those Orthokine treatments don't pay for themselves.
If it's chronic and they don't think he'll ever get better, I suppose I can't fault them for folding. But if he can get back to the point where he's capable of playing 65 games a season, then they're too pot-committed to check out. You can bet your lucky underwear that he'll have plenty of other max offers from other teams willing to roll the fuzzy dice on his fuzzy hair. He's that special of a talent in an NBA where only he and Dwight Howard reside in the Eden of Centers. And those damn apples are everywhere.
The key here is that none of us will ever really know what's going on. It's the nature of the sports PR beast. The Greg Oden situation (injuries cancel out, bowling equals dick pic) is one still shrouded in mystery and second opinions and he-said-she-said. The Sixers could simply deem Bynum not worth the trouble but publicly divert the attention to his injuries and loose screws.
What I don't want to happen -- I really, really don't want it to happen -- is for Doug Collins and company to develop a (warranted, admittedly) deep-seated animosity towards Bynum for the bowling incident and allow that to cloud their judgment. Bynum has all the leverage in offseason negotiations and if the Sixers don't, ahem, BOWL HIM OVER (thank you thank you) with an offer, he'll take his ball and go to Cleveland or Houston or somewhere.
Because the fact of the matter is this: The Sixers-Without-Bynum are about as relevant as my medical analysis of Andrew's health. I could guess right, but in the end, I'm not the guy you get behind because of my doctoral assessment. This Sixers team doesn't matter unless Bynum is playing. They can't go back to Mediocracy. They just can't. Letting him walk just puts them right back there -- gotta get a superstar. With two future first rounders in other teams' pockets, they are not built to rebuild right now, even if they've done an admirable job in staying financially flexible in the short-term.
The recently re-signed Jrue Holiday has been excellent, Jason Richardson and Thaddeus Young have surprised, Evan Turner and his backup dancers have had their moments, but nothing matters without Bynum. They're a circus with no ringleader. They're a song with no chorus. They're a foot with no big toe.
Anything they do from here on out will be considered a risk. It is highly unfortunate that both sides have gotten themselves into the position they currently reside. But any subsequent decision should be made towards putting this team in the best possible position to win a championship in the next few years.
If the option is available, the only chance they have is with Andrew Bynum on their side. With that in mind, the choice shouldn't be that difficult.