Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bynum looks at home in Philly

Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson
Philadelphia - The  people of Philadelphia, in order to form a more perfect union, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare  of  the city, helped  establish  a  new-era  of 76ers  basketball  on
Wednesday.

Forgive  the Constitution  shtick but  it's hard  to resist  since the  Sixers
introduced their new All-Star center Andrew Bynum at the National Constitution
Center in a press conference open to the public.

A  throng of  Philadelphia fans, who were  on hand to welcome Bynum as well as
sharpshooter  Jason Richardson,  broke out  in chants  of "Andrew  Bynum!" and
"Beat L.A.!" as the big man walked to the staging area.

It's  probably  lost on  this generation but  the Sixers were  once one of the
marquee  teams in  all  of  basketball with  two  legendary incarnations,  the
1966-67  version, built on the back of Wilt Chamberlain, as well as the '82-83
bunch, which won an NBA title after acquiring Moses Malone from Houston.

There  have  been no  championships in  the City of  Brotherly Love since that
Malone and Julius Erving-led group and it's no coincidence since Moses was the
last great big man the Sixers' franchise had.

There  have  been serviceable options  over the  years like Mike Gminski, Theo
Ratliff  and Dikembe Mutombo along with abject failures like Shawn Bradley and
Sharone  Wright but  Philadelphia's days as a consistent title threat dried up
the day Malone moved on.

It's probably a little premature to place this group of 76ers alongside Miami,
the  Lakers and Oklahoma City as a real championship contender for 2012-13 but
they  sure are a lot closer after getting Bynum, the NBA's top offensive pivot
as well as a solid defensive presence, in the Dwight Howard blockbuster.

The  Sixers got the  All-Star for a song and a dance, giving up Andre Iguodala
to  Denver and  sending youngsters Maurice Harkless and Nik Vucevic to Orlando
along with a future protected first round pick.

Iguodala  is  certainly a  very good  basketball player  and both Harkless and
Vucevic  have some  upside but securing a 7-foot, 285-pound game-changer for a
role  player  and a  couple of  question marks had  many wondering whether Rod
Thorn was wearing a mask when he pulled it off.

And  with Bynum  in the City of  Brotherly Love, no lottery protection will be
needed. The big man finished the 2011-12 season by averaging 18.7 points, 11.8
rebounds  and  1.9 blocks  per  game  while  also  flashing his  dominance  by
recording a pair of 20-20 games as well as a 30-rebound effort.

However,  despite  those gaudy  numbers, Bynum  was often  the third option in
Hollywood behind Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

In  Philadelphia, Bynum will  be the straw that stirs the drink and he figures
to  force the  kind of  consistent double  teams which  should open  the floor
for the Sixers' ascending players like Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner as well as
a  trio of  big-time three-point shooters acquired this offseason, Richardson,
Dorell Wright and Nick Young.

"It's  the next step in my career," Bynum said of headlining this Philadelphia
team.  "It's a lot  more exciting and a lot more fun knowing they are going to
run (the offense) through you. Looking at the roster, we have a deep team. The
sky is the limit."

Bynum  is  set to become  an unrestricted free agent  after this season but by
making  the deal the  Sixers have secured his "Bird Rights." Thanks to the new
CBA,  that means  Philadelphia can offer Bynum a five-year contract after this
season  with 7.5  percent annual raises as  opposed to a maximum of four years
and 4.5 percent annual raises from any other team.

Asked  what  he  was  thinking  when  he first  heard  about  the  trade,  the
Plainsboro, NJ native said: "I'm coming home."

And don't think the fans devotion was lost on the object of their affection.

"To  be  honest, my first experience  here's been so great, I'm really looking
forward to making this my home," Bynum said.

To  their credit the Sixers' brass understood they topped out last season with
the talent on hand and had to grab for the brass ring.

Sure,  Bynum  has had some maturity  issues in the  past and you have to worry
about  a guy  that big who has had  a history of knee problems before his 25th
birthday.  But,  he's also got  a championship  pedigree, seems to have gotten
over the hump physically and is starting to show signs that he gets "it."

Bynum  missed an  average of 31 games  in his first four seasons but toiled in
60-of-66  in 2011-12,  a lockout shortened season filled with back-to-back-to-
backs. Meanwhile, four of those absences were due to a suspension.

Bynum  also  has gone  proactive, setting  up a visit  to Germany in September
where  he  will  undergo  the  same  non-invasive  platelet-rich  plasma  knee
procedure that Kobe, Grant Hill and Alex Rodriguez swear by.

"It's  work, every  single day. Day in  and day out," Bynum said. "I'm looking
forward  to  getting  into  the  locker room  and  sharing  (his  championship
experience) with our team."

So are the Sixers, who think they finally have their heir apparent to Wilt and
Moses.

"(Bynum  will) be a focal point of what we do," Thorn said on WIP Radio before
the  press  conference. "We've gone from  a small, not-very-physical team to a
big, strong, physical team."
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