It’s a classic case of buyer’s remorse. The Philadelphia 76ers have waited and waited on Andrew Bynum, who has more outrageous hairstyles than minutes played. He broke the news Friday that his surgically repaired right knee swelled after his last workout.
So Bynum may never appear in a Philadelphia uniform if he decides to have more surgery, meaning the down-on-their-luck 76ers got a half-season of Jason Richardson for their participation in the Dwight Howard deal, getting fleeced because they gave up first-round pick Maurice Harkless and double-double machine Nicola Vucevic, who is tied for fourth in the NBA in rebounding.
What made it more embarrassing is that the Magic, featuring Vucevic and Harkless, stomped on the 76ers Tuesday night, 98-84. Sixers coach Doug Collins was forced to watch Vucevic pull down 19 rebounds while Bynum didn’t even sit on the Philadelphia bench. Collins was relegated to using Spencer Hawes at center. Kwame Brown sat by virtue of a coach’s decision.
The 76ers were the vogue pick to rise in the East after falling to the Celtics in seven games in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. They waived Elton Brand using the amnesty clause, and traded for Bynum, seeking their first dominant center since Moses Malone. They added Richardson and signed Nick Young to join the core of Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, and Evan Turner.
The results have been nightmarish, as Holiday has been the lone 76er to flourish, Bynum has yet to play, and the 76ers are so wildly inconsistent that it’s driving their well-traveled coach to use postgame press conferences as therapy. Such was the case after the Orlando game, when Collins used the podium as his personal couch and vented his issues.
He seems close to the end, close to walking away and leaving the responsibility of putting together these jumbled pieces to a younger and more energetic coach.
“I wish I knew, I really do,” he told reporters. “I’m sitting there and I gave my body to this franchise [as a player]. I was never booed as a player. Never. I ran through my sneakers.
“The team we’ve tried to put together, we’ve never seen. And so I think what happens is when you take a huge piece away from it, your warts show.”
After the loss to Orlando, the 76ers returned with a better effort Thursday against the Bulls but still lost, 93-82, as Joakim Noah pulled off a nationally televised triple-double.
“If everybody looked inside themselves as much as I did, this world would be a CAT scan,” Collins said. “There’s not two days go by that I don’t go to [team president] Rod [Thorn], I don’t go to [general manager] Tony [DiLeo], ‘What can I do? Can I do anything different? Can I be a better coach? How can I be a better leader? How can I help these guys?’
“Sometimes you’ve got to help yourself. Youth is a very blaming thing.
“After a while the talk gets old. It’s my job not to put that kind of product on the floor. I’m incredibly hard on myself.”
The 76ers have more talent than their players have displayed, but Collins has worn on teams before (Bulls, Pistons, Wizards)
“The one thing I have to understand is from me staying up, working harder, not sleeping, that’s not going to help anything,” said Collins. “There’s nothing wrong with our preparation. I looked out there to start the game, three guys weren’t even sweating when we started the game. They were going to ease themselves to start the game. You’ve got to be sweaty. You’ve got to be ready to go.”
With the 76ers still mathematically in the playoff race, Collins expressed bewilderment about the season.
“I’m disappointed, I really, really am,” he said. “There was so much to this season that we were looking forward to, and every time we turn around, it’s something else.
“We made a huge deal and we have nobody playing as part of that deal. How many teams can give up Andre Iguodala, Mo Harkless, and Nic Vucevic, and have nothing in return playing? That’s tough to overcome, right?”
Bynum said Friday that he doesn’t want to play in pain, and he is unsure whether he’ll play this season. Unfortunately for the 76ers, they put their faith in a rather fickle 25-year-old with bad knees. It was a heavy risk that may push the franchise back a decade.
BATTLE IS JOINED
Kings remain up for grabs
On the day he promised, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson submitted what he called a “competitive” proposal for local buyers to purchase the Kings from the Maloofs and keep the club in that city. So the showdown between Sacramento and Seattle for the Kings is officially on.
There was doubt as to whether Johnson, a former NBA All-Star, could submit a proposal that compared to the $500 million-plus price tag the Kings are expected to garner from a Seattle-based group led by real estate mogul Chris Hansen.
But Johnson told commissioner David Stern to be prepared for a response, and Stern has shifted the responsibility to the Relocation Committee, which, by coincidence, is led by Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett, the man mainly responsible for taking the Sonics out of Seattle and turning them into the Thunder.
There is a perception Stern regrets how matters played out in Seattle in 2008, with the team leaving the city after 41 years despite support and the potential for team growth there.
But when asked last month if the Sonics’ move would play into this scenario, Stern said, “Actually, it doesn’t impact anything. This is being done by the book.
“But I seem to remember, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, that there was a $300 million-plus subsidy for the Mariners, and a $300 million-plus subsidy for the Seahawks, and there was legislation which precluded that for the Sonics, and Speaker [Frank] Chopp said that we should take the money from our players. Is there anything that I’m missing there?
“ I think I’d like to see us go back there. But the history is being rewritten in a way that your question gave me an opportunity to set the record straight.”
That meeting with the Seattle legislature in which Stern felt insulted by Chopp — who has remained rather quiet during these new proceedings — was critical in the team’s relocation and perhaps became personal.
Orlando GM gets job done
More than one league executive has noted the young talent Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan has stacked up over the past several months, including two more prospects for the expiring contract of J.J. Redick. The Magic picked up guard Doron Lamb and swingman Tobias Harris along with the expiring deal of Beno Udrih in the Redick trade with the Bucks, and that was after getting NikolaVucevic, MauriceHarkless, and ArronAfflalo in the Dwight Howard deal.
When Howard refused to re-sign to a long-term extension, the Magic decided that they were going to get a younger coach — 38-year-old Jacque Vaughn — and build by dealing their aging veterans and through the draft, much like Hennigan’s old team in Oklahoma City.
An Orlando executive said last week that the worst thing for any NBA team is to be mediocre and aging, and the Magic avoided that by dealing Howard and Redick in their primes for younger chips. While the Magic are being battered on the court, they are beginning to build an attractive core that won’t include holdovers Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu.
Nelson has another guaranteed year on his contract, but the 2014-15 season carries a $2 million buyout. Turkoglu’s deal, long regretted by the Magic because he failed to live up to expectations after a strong 2008-09 season, has a $6 million buyout for next summer.
The Magic easily could have retained their veterans, won 48 games, and lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Instead, Hennigan has put together a roster brimming with potential. Getting the 20-year-old Harris, who burned the Celtics for 18 points in the season opener but fell out of favor with coach Scott Skiles, and the 21-year-old Lamb, who served as a backup point guard, in a deal for Redick was an astute move.
Besides Nelson, Turkoglu and Al Harrington, the team’s graybeards are now Afflalo and Glen Davis, both of whom are just 27. When Nelson, Turkoglu, and Harrington (a throw-in in the Howard deal) come off the books, Afflalo’s $7.5 million salary will be the team’s highest.
The Magic were heavily criticized for what they received in the Howard deal and how they wanted no part of AndrewBynum, but that has turned out to be a masterful decision. They got three first-round picks in the deal — one each from the Lakers, Nuggets, and 76ers — along with potential cornerstones in Vucevic and Harkless, all for a disgruntled Howard and an overpaid Jason Richardson.
It may take a couple more seasons, but the Magic have established themselves as a team on the rise, and they have an opportunity at the first overall pick in June’s draft. So it’s interesting how fortunes and perceptions have changed since the Howard trade. The Magic can be declared a winner for their work over the past eight months.
Fisher makes curious move
The Thunder’s signing of Derek Fisher to a contract for the remainder of the season is the latest in a series of curious moves involving the former Lakers guard, who asked out of his contract with the Mavericks in December because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
Less than three months later, after dealing with upheaval in the NBA Players Association as its president, Fisher signed with the team favored to reach the Western Conference finals, if not the NBA Finals.
There was a perception that Fisher was unhappy with the direction and record of the Mavericks, who entered Saturday 26-32, 11th in the Western Conference. The Thunder traded backup point guard Eric Maynor to the Trail Blazers in a salary cap move and were unsure whether former Boston College guard Reggie Jackson could handle the role. So Fisher is back, leaving those in Dallas to wonder whether he bailed out.
“To choose at this point to be away from my family and take that risk personally, it was important that this type of team, this type of community, this type of organization — this is what I enjoy being a part of,” Fisher said. “Since the first of the year, I’ve been training hard and pushing hard. My tank is much more full showing up this year than it was last year.”
Undoubtedly, Fisher will bring savvy and leadership to the Thunder, but this move won’t quell those sentiments that Fisher is always seeking the best situation — regardless of whether he’s already committed to a team.
Meanwhile, the NBPA is waiting for the conclusion of three lawsuits against former executive director Billy Hunter, who was removed during All-Star Weekend. Fisher said he will remain president of the NBPA until further notice.
The Bucks suspended Samuel Dalembert one game for violating team policy but they are not expected to buy him out, which likely would have led to a bidding war for the veteran center. Dalembert is a free agent at season’s end and he has watched his stock drop steadily since leaving the 76ers in a trade. He was once considered a quality starting center but has experienced troubles with the Bucks. Still, that won’t curtail offseason interest in him as a backup. His days as a consistent starter are likely over.
While Rasheed Wallace appeared to have something left in the tank when he signed with the Knicks, he was never fully healthy and now will miss two months with a broken bone in his foot. Wallace will be 39 in September and the question is whether he can muster enough to come back for another season . . . Washington’s fourth loss to Detroit this season did not come without a subplot, as Wizards announcer Steve Buckhantz called Trevor Ariza’s 3-pointer at the buzzer good for what would have been a Wizards win Wednesday. Unfortunately for the Wizards, the shot was an airball, only grazing the net and giving the impression to announcers sitting several feet away at an awkward angle that the ball had gone through the hoop. Buckhantz then said it was strange that there was no celebration by the Wizards, only to find out through replay that the ball never came close to going through the rim. Buckhantz and color man Phil Chenier had to endure the embarrassment of describing a loss they thought was a win. It’s been another difficult year in Washington.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.