COMMENTARY | With the Philadelphia 76ers losing to the then-winless Detroit Pistons on November 14, 94-76, the 76ers, a team with high expectations coming into the season, stumbled out of the gates to a 4-4 record.
Although many thought Philadelphia's involvement in the Dwight Howard trade, bringing in Andrew Bynum, would catapult the 76ers into a new stratosphere of winning it shouldn't be a surprise that they've struggled. The team was built on unreliable players.
It starts with Bynum, the reason fans were excited about the new season.
It was a huge risk to make Bynum a franchise player in the first place due to rather large durability issues. In the 566 regular season games Bynum could have played in, he's appeared in only 392 of them (69.3 percent). The last time he played 82 games (obviously the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season doesn't count) was during the 2006-07 season, his second year in the league.
In September, Bynum once again injured himself in September, suffering a bone bruise in a workout. He has a history of knee issues so it came as no surprise. According to the 76ers website Bynum was initially ruled out of activity for four weeks. It was extended another four weeks after a re-evaluation. Now Bynum has been ruled out another three weeks.
However, once cleared, the 76ers also said they imagine the center could need anywhere from one to four weeks to work on his conditioning and potential basketball rust.
It's a big deal for the face of the franchise to be out of commission for at least the first month and a half of the NBA season.
Knowing Bynum could have injury issues, the 76ers should have gotten a proven back-up center. While Spencer Hawes is a decent role player the Sixers have left him to come off the bench even in Bynum's absence.
Getting two starts before succumbing to an injury of his own? Longtime underachiever Kwame Brown. Despite being inserted into the starting lineup in the only two games he's played in, Brown has averaged 11.5 minutes per game, 3.5 points per game and 2.0 rebounds per game.
The team's big free agent signing (remember Bynum and shooting guard Jason Richardson came to the team in a trade) was Nick Young. While he shows flashes of brilliance, Young is a notoriously streaky player. He's shown that this season with the Sixers.
Young averages 24.5 minutes per game, many of which come during crunch time. He's only shooting 32.5 percent from the field. Only two players on the team--Damien Wilkins and Maalik Wayns, neither who has averaged more than eight minutes a game--are shooting worse than Young.
He's also tossed up 29 three-pointers-second-most-on the team, yet he's only made eight of them. That means he's shooting an abysmal 27.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Young is getting a lot of shooting opportunities. He's not cashing them in. If he's not going to be a reliable scorer, then the 76ers will continue to struggle.
And while Jrue Holiday is having an impact on the offensive end of the court with his scoring and with his passing abilities-improving as a player-he still leads the entire league in turnovers per game (5.4).
The team also doesn't rebound terribly well. Their top rebounder is six-foot-seven-inch and a think 220 pound small forward Evan Turner, followed by six-foot-eight-inch small forward Thaddeus Young. Without Bynum and any power forward presence the team is relying on two wing players to crash the boards. It's no surprise that Philadelphia is 19th in the league with a negative 2.1 rebounding differential.
It's early in the season still with enough time for a turnaround. Andrew Bynum could come back and help make the team a viable threat in the East. Even if he doesn't, the 76ers made the playoffs last year without him and could do so again this year.
But putting a franchise's faith in an oft-injury riddled center and an extremely streaky wing player and combine that with little depth in the post and lots of turnovers and that is definitely a recipe for disaster.
Phil Shore lives in New Jersey and is the creator and editor of Shore Thing Sports blog. He's been published in The Boston Globe, Philly.com, FoxSoccer.com, LaxMagazine.com and New England Lacrosse Journal.
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