Philadelphia 76ers fans like myself were stunned to see the Sixers involved in the long awaited Dwight Howard blockbuster on Aug. 9. What's more, we were stunned to get the Los Angeles Lakers' old superstar center, Andrew Bynum, so the Lakers could get their new star center in Howard. As such, Bynum's arrival has become the biggest move the Sixers have made in years, which could alter the very future of the franchise.
Yet if one watched ESPN, no one would know that Bynum and the Sixers were even part of the deal. Pretty much all the buzz and hype around the trade concerns Howard joining the Lakers, while Bynum has become an afterthought. Although Bynum is considered one of the best centers in the NBA behind Howard, he is in the shadows of his replacement in more ways than one.
Of course, Howard trade talk did consume the NBA for months, and it is ending with him joining the prestigious Lakers. What's more, now that Howard and Steve Nash are joining Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace in the Los Angeles starting five, the Lakers are being haled as a powerhouse again after a few years of mediocrity. As such, the hype has already began for a Lakers-Miami Heat NBA Finals showdown in 2013.
Compared to that, Bynum joining the middle of the pack Sixers isn't the biggest of news. Yet just as Bynum was ultimately dismissed by the Lakers for something flashier in Howard, he is being dismissed in the overall buzz for this trade. Yet although the Lakers were already set to improve without Howard, Bynum's arrival to the Sixers could be even more of a game-changing move.
Philadelphia hasn't had a proven star lead its team since Allen Iverson was traded in 2006. If the Sixers can prove themselves with Bynum and if he agrees to stay on long term, they can build a real winning team around him. The Lakers were already going to be winners without Howard, but the Sixers looked set for another mediocre campaign until Bynum shot their expectations up.
The fact that Bynum has been overlooked so much in favor of Howard may wind up paying off for him and the Sixers. Now Bynum has something to prove after being sent away, and now he has his very own team that will build around him. Whereas he was living in Bryant's shadow in Los Angeles, he will be the unquestioned center of attention in Philadelphia. And while everyone endlessly wonders if Howard can be the next great Lakers center, Bynum can more quietly turn the Sixers into a factor in the East.
Since there are no championship expectations for Bynum and the Sixers, unlike Howard and the Lakers, it is clear that Los Angeles is likely to get the better end of this deal. But can Bynum and the Sixers use their status as the invisible factors in this trade to defy these expectations? Or will the old Lakers' star center remain in the shadows while the new one keeps hogging up the hype and glory?
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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