Philadelphia 76ers preview: The Andrew Bynum hangover

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The former Lakers big man was supposed to breathe new life into the 76ers. Instead, the future of the Mavs opponent on Tuesday night is as cloudy as ever.

Bryan Toporek is a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan whose writing on the NBA can be found throughout the interwebs. In his spare time, he doubles as the sports blogger and social media manager for Education Week. You can follow him on Twitter @btoporek.

What is the latest on Andrew Bynum's situation? From a distance, from his hairstyle choices to this bowling incident, it looks like a complete fiasco.

Suffice it to say, the honeymoon period between Andrew Bynum and Philly fans has come to a rather abrupt end. I loved Afro Drew Drew as much as anyone (who wouldn't want a 70's porn star guarding their basket?), but the bowling injury soured me on Bynum more than ever before.

Now, with the news that he's out indefinitely due to a "weakened cartilage state" and bone bruises in both knees, Philly fans have to worry about the legitimate possibility about Bynum never playing a single game in a Sixers uniform.

With that said, I'd agree with the Sixers front office in saying that the trade was a "calculated risk" worth taking. The Sixers had been so painfully mediocre for the half-decade before the summer of 2012 that the chance to acquire a potential franchise superstar was worth nearly anything, even if it doesn't work out exactly as intended.

At this point, how much of a concern is the possibility that he's walking down the same path as Yao and Oden? Maybe guys their size just can't handle the stress of an NBA season?

Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo told the media Saturday that Bynum's knees had worsened since the team acquired him in August, which is just about the worse news imaginable for anyone hoping that the team would sign him in the summer of 2013 to a major long-term contract.

Part of me says that if Shaquille O'Neal could carve out a nearly 20-year career with his frame, there's no reason that a player with Bynum's athleticism couldn't stay healthy, theoretically. However, every player is different, and the Sixers knew when trading for Bynum that he had already underwent surgeries on both knees during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Given DiLeo's comments about the state of Bynum's knees worsening and the "weakened cartilage state" that he's dealing with, it's starting to sound like Bynum could be heading down the path of Yao and Oden. Excuse me as I go commit seppuku.

In terms of guys who've actually played this year, it looks like Jrue Holiday has been the biggest beneficiary of Iguodala's departure. Has he lived up to the contract he received (4 years/$41 million) and where would you put him in the ranks of NBA PG's?

While the Bynum situation has been an open cold sore on the Sixers' 2012-13 season, Jrue Holiday has easily been the most prominent bright spot for the team.

Through the Sixers first 13 games, Holiday averaged 17.5 points, 8.9 assists, four rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game, shooting nearly 41 percent from three-point range in the process. He's been turning the ball over far too often, averaging 4.5 turnovers per game, but otherwise, he's taken the step forward that many expected him to take in 2011-12.

While he's playing great so far, I'm not ready to elevate him into the Chris Paul/Deron Williams/Russell Westbrook/Derrick Rose conversation just yet. He's not quite at Rajon Rondo's level, either, although at $11 million/year, Rondo has one of the better value contracts in the NBA.

If Holiday keeps up the way he's been playing, though, I'd say he's meeting, if not surpassing, the expectations for a $10 million/year deal. Compared to players like George Hill, Jeremy Lin and Goran Dragic, who all received $8-plus million deals in the summer of 2012, I'd take Holiday over all of them. (Note: I had written all of this before he went off for 33 points and 13 assists against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.)

Even with Iguodala gone, the 76ers still have the 2nd rated defense in the NBA. How have they been able to do that and which players get the toughest defensive assignments on the perimeter and the front-court?

Trading Iguodala away deprived the Sixers of their best perimeter defender from 2011-12, and amnestying Elton Brand took away their best frontcourt defender. (Bynum was supposed to make up for all of that, but, well... you know.)

With the absence of Iguodala on the wing, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have stepped up their defensive games. Through games on Nov. 24, Holiday has held opposing point guards to a per-48-minute PER of 14.0, according to 82games.com, and Turner has been surprisingly excellent on the defensive end, limiting opposing 3's to a per-48-minute PER of 11.1.

On the interior, Lavoy Allen has stepped up as the Sixers' starting center due to Bynum's absence. He's produced next to nothing on the offensive end, but he's been holding his own defensively, despite often being outsized by opposing 5's by a few inches.

I've gotten into "It's Always Sunny" recently. How accurate is that show in terms of how the average Philly sports fan acts? 100%?

Yep, just about. I'd hope we're all not as hilariously deplorable as the "Sunny" crew, but if so ... dibs on being Frank.

We definitely have a tendency to live and die with our sports teams, especially the Eagles. (Which has made this year a living hell for the entire city.) We tend to overreact to just about everything, win or lose, and we're not going to be shy about voicing our opinions while tempers flare.

Also, fire Andy Reid.

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