March 21, 2013
Andrew Bynum is not exactly the most popular sports figure in Philadelphia right now. To put it kindly.
The man the Sixers traded Andre Iguodala for, the guy they planned to rebuild the roster around, has not played a game for them all season. He was injured, recovery times got pushed, back, and next he had an injury setback while out bowling. Finally he said he didn't want to play through pain - fans and teammates (who are playing through pain) don't want to hear that. Bynum's low pain tolerance and seeming lack passion for the game have been talked about behind his back by former teammates for years.
Now Bynum is going to have surgeries on both knees before becoming a free agent this summer. Philly fans are pretty much done with him.
So, does anyone have his back? You know things are rough for him when Bynum's former high school athletic director and coach didn't have his back in an interview with the Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro.
"Everyone here at school says the same thing: What's wrong with him? Why does he act like that?" says St. Joe's athletic director Jerry Smith. "He went from someone we're proud of to someone whose name we don't even mention anymore."
"Yeah, I never respond to that kind of request (to defend Bynum), because Andrew has chosen not to stay in touch for whatever reason, so I just don't get involved with it," says Mark Taylor, who now coaches the St. Benedict's Prep powerhouse. "I don't dislike him, and he'll continue to do well if he can stay healthy, but I'm sure he's got people who will guide him in times like this."
"Like most big guys with big expectations, he seemed uncomfortable with them," says Wendell Alexis, the former Syracuse star who was Taylor's assistant in 2004-05. "And subsequently, he seemed leery of people around him - coaches, or agents, or could be anybody. He had a very serious nature for a 17-year-old, actually, whereas most people that age - with that talent - would think the world was their oyster."
That kind of aloof posture is how many former teammates speak of Bynum.
The question now becomes what kind of deal is Bynum going to be offered? D'Alessandro suggests it's in the one-year, $8 million range. I think Bynum is the first big test of the new CBA and tax rules - while that one-year deal is what he should get, I think some team will gamble more because of the potential return. He is an All-Star and game changer at both ends when healthy, teams in the past have taken risks and overpaid bigs (Kris Humphires got $12 million a year for two years last summer). I expect an offer more like two or three years in the $12 million to $15 million range, with teams using an exemption that lets them waive him if he can't play due to his knees.
But we'll see. If I'm Philadelphia I'm more likely to bid low and just move on, despite the huge loss. Because Bynum isn't going to help you sell a lot of tickets again. Except to boo him.