Just over three weeks into the NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers are still looking for a return on their investment.
It looks as if they won't see one until at least January.
Desperate to jump from a mediocre playoff team to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, the Sixers completed an offseason deal that sent the face of their franchise, Andre Iguodala, to the Denver Nuggets as part of a four-team deal that landed Philadelphia center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers parted with Bynum after the 7-footer had a career season in Los Angeles, scoring 18.7 points per game while grabbing just under 12 rebounds per contest. They received an older, more proven veteran All-Star in former Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard in return, but the reasoning behind the move was slightly questionable after Bynum had such an impressive season.
Maybe Philadelphia should have asked more questions itself.
Just 25-years-old, Bynum's start date for the Sixers has been pushed back three times since Philadelphia acquired him, the most recent setback putting the center's return at five weeks away with continuing complications with his right-knee.
Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo released a statement earlier this week expressing his interest in getting Bynum back on the court, which he said would "hopefully" be soon.
Bynum has battled knee issues throughout his eight-year career, playing a full schedule of games just once. He's had operations on both knees and spent time in Germany in September undergoing a blood-treatment procedure that was thought to allow Bynum to begin play in October. Along with his history of injuries, Bynum has at times shown lack of maturity during his career. His most recent incident was an errant three-point attempt against the Golden State Warriors as a member of the Lakers back in March, a shot that earned Bynum a spot on the bench for the second half of that game and created a whirlwind of trade rumors around the star. Bynum expressed little regret for his lack of team play under then Lakers' head coach Mike Brown, refusing to join team huddles and sporting a happy demeanor for the remainder of the contest.
With Howard starring in Los Angeles and Iguodala making an impact for the Nuggets, the Sixers have yet to see if Bynum was worth shipping a handful of youthful pieces, including forwards Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless, as well as a future first-round pick away from Philadelphia.
To make matters worse for the Sixers, Bynum is in the final year of a contract that could see him leave Philadelphia at the end of the season, whether he has played a game or not. The Sixers front office was hoping that Bynum would give the team enough of a post-presence to vault the team to the top of the Eastern Conference along with the Miami Heat and convince Bynum to sign a long-term deal.
The longer Bynum is sidelined, the less likely Philadelphia will feel comfortable offering him a contract and likewise, the less comfortable Bynum will feel accepting it. In an era of the NBA in which only teams filled with multiple superstars seem to succeed, it's easy to figure that Bynum will want to jump on with a franchise that already has pieces ready to win a title, rather than be the lone piece in Philadelphia.
The Sixers best move might be to consider trading Bynum before the February deadline, although the center will have had to see considerable time on the court before another organization would imagine making a move. And it's hard to believe the Sixers could get back the equivalent of what they parted with to get him.
Bynum could still work out in Philadelphia.
As of now, it's looking like an investment with minimal returns.
Rob Edwards lives in New Jersey and has been covering the Philadelphia 76ers for six years. He has been published in the South Jersey Times as well as multiple other newspapers and NJ.com.