The guillotine is being readied in Philadelphia it appears, as Inquirer writer John N. Mitchell set fire to the Sixers front office for the Andrew Bynum deal on Sunday. He intones that it could go down as one of the worst deals in NBA history. He suggests it could have ripple effects on the team for years to come. He calls it a "potentially franchise-crippling mistake." The thrust is that if Bynum signs elsewhere in the offseason, that the Sixers could enter a new Dark Ages.
I understand that this season has gone rather poorly for the 76ers. But ... really? This type of reaction seems a bit melodramatic.
There are few ways to get legit stars in the NBA. You can draft them. If you're a glamour market, you can wait for them to demand a trade. Or, in special circumstances, you can roll the dice for them, such as after an injury or as they approach free agency. There are but few cases in which risk is not heavily involved. This is pro sports, after all. Chemistry sometimes doesn't work. Injuries happen. Players don't develop the way you dreamed. Risks are inherent in all that a team does.
The Bynum deal was particularly risky because of his repeated knee injuries, his purported attitude, his contract's length (one year) and the cost (two rookie deal players, Andre Iguodala). That risk has not worked out, as Bynum hasn't played one second, and it's becoming increasingly possible he'll leave as a free agent. The three risks were that a) Bynum would be injured, b) Bynum would leave in 2013 and c) the players given up would blossom. All three could very well come to fruition. Womp womp. So it goes.
The Sixers still did the right thing, I think. They weren't going to win 50 games without the trade. They didn't win 50 games with the trade. They made the playoffs last season and even advanced a round. Maybe they would have done it again with the status quo. I seriously can't stand the whining from Doug Collins over losing Nikola Vucevic, a big man the coach played three minutes in 13 playoff games last spring. I don't exactly trust that Vucevic would be a double-double machine were he still in Philadelphia, especially if the Bynum risk wasn't realized.
Worst deal in NBA history? Maurice Harkless is going to need to become a superstar for that to happen. A middling team gave up some assets in an attempt to be a better team. It didn't work out. These trades happen every single season. I'm much more bothered by Philadelphia's decision to give Spencer Hawes $13 million over two years than the decision to flip Iguodala for Bynum. I'm much more bothered by the decision to let Lou Williams go only to replace him with Nick Young than the Bynum deal.
The gross little undercurrent in Mitchell's column, though, is a sense that because the deal went bad, Bynum owes Philadelphia something. To wit:
While it would be wonderful if Bynum - an unrestricted free agent - gave the Sixers special consideration in light of all that they lost in trading for him and the agonizing wait for him to return, a team source with knowledge of the situation said last week that he does not believe that will be the case.
Oh my lord, how hard did Bynum's agent laugh when he heard this? Is he still laughing 24 hours later? The suggestion is that because Bynum's knee was too injured to allow him to get on the court this season, Bynum -- an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career -- would give the Sixers a discount come July. Yes, that's reasonable. That's totally within the realm of possibility. On Planet LOL. (Which, incidentally, is my favorite Darryl Dawkins dunk.)
A strange week
On Wednesday, 12 or so NBA owners will gather in New York to hear the cases for and against moving the Kings from Sacramento to Seattle. I'm convinced no one knows how this thing will go. Kevin Johnson has impressed the crew before, and he is bringing Ron Burkle, Mark Mastrov and, most notably, Vivek Ranadivé with him this time. But Chris Hansen is a lightning bolt in his own way. It's really hard to imagine either guy not getting what he wants.
The dynamics of the NBA supercommittee will be interesting to watch. It's littered with small-market owners. But there's also Ted Leonsis, who is apparently a friend of Ranadivé. (And in case you missed it, David Stern blurbed Ranadivé's last book.) Clay Bennett is on the committee, too; he's got to be twisted in knots about potentially voting against a return of basketball to Seattle. Bennett led the relocation committee's effort two years ago to judge Sacramento and Anaheim. That venture ended with the Kings remaining in Sacramento.
Like I said, it's going to be a strange week.