As you may or may not know, Philadunkia’s Jeff McMenamin has a “more famous” brother. Jeff’s older brother is Dave McMenamin — the Lakers beat writer for ESPN Los Angeles. Shortly after the mega D12-Bynum-Dre trade, Jeff called Dave to discuss one of the biggest moves is the history of the Sixers franchise. Ohh yeah, it was a pretty big trade for the Lakers as well.
The following post is a trancipt of the conversation between the two hoops loving McMenamin brothers…
Jeff: First of all, how was your 16-day trip to Europe? Did you have night terrors of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol both getting injured in Olympic action, or were you able to keep your mind off of the Lakers for a little bit and actually get some much needed R & R?
Dave: It was incredible. I jaunted through Zurich, Munich, Prague and Amsterdam with a few friends and can’t wait to plan the next trip. The highlight was definitely Prague – amazing views, great (and inexpensive) food, friendly people. From a basketball perspective though, experiencing the globalization of the game didn’t get much better than watching Team USA beat Tunisia in an Irish bar in Germany next to a couple of Canadian fans, one of whom was wearing a Mike Bibby jersey.
Jeff: I saw that you were still however able to catch some of Team USA’s games overseas. What have you thought of Kobe’s play from what you’ve seen and does it surprise you that he came out and said that this will be his last tour of duty with the team?
Dave: I thought Kobe showed some encouraging athleticism by attacking the rim, which leads me to believe his body is feeling great heading into next season. He certainly struggled at times and was really the fourth most reliable offensive option behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, but he still managed to have his signature moment on the court (the 20-point half against Australia comes to mind) while being the top-dog off the court (he made waves by rejecting the 23-and-under proposed rule change and declaring that his 2012 Olympic team could challenge the 1992 Dream Team). As for him saying this was his last Olympics, that just falls in line with his public statements on retirement. He said he’ll play 2-3 more years in the NBA, so he’d be contradicting himself if he said he would be playing in another Olympiad four years from now.
Jeff: When I first texted you about the latest trade rumors involving Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum you had just gotten off the plane from your trip. What was your initial reaction? Did you have a Clark Kent type moment where you found the nearest airport bathroom and shed your newly acquired Dolce & Gabbana European wear for your favorite Lakers reporting uniform?
Dave: Yup, off with the “Bruno” gear and on with the Tony Kornheiser. In all seriousness, the timing was pretty interesting. I had just got off a flight from the Netherlands to Chicago and waiting on a connection to California. Whenever these rumors pop up, it’s our job to determine whether they are just exploratory phone calls or actually have some substance, so that means texting/calling a variety of agents, front-office personnel, scouts and players to see if they are hearing anything. A trusted source believed that the four-team Denver, Philly, Lakers, Magic deal didn’t have legs to it, so I sent in an update to our ESPN news desk expressing that. Of course, when I landed in California five hours later, the first phone call I received was from that same source telling me how things had changed and now the deal looked to be real.
Jeff: Just to make sure, any secret items to this uniform? Everyone knows Michael Jordan used to wear his worn-out North Carolina practice shorts under his game shorts for every game. Do you throw on unwashed Syracuse Orangemen (I know it’s no longer politically correct to put “men” but I’m doing it anyway because it sounds better) boxers under your suit pants when you have to break a big story?
Dave: I’m usually wearing some sort of Cuse gear about four out of seven days a week just because I have so much of it, so I’ve written my fair share of stories while wearing orange, but I don’t have like a derby hat with a “press” ticket sticking out of it that I put on when it’s time to write.
Jeff: As the trade kept on developing throughout the night, what were you most worried about happening? When I first mentioned to you how the initial rumored trade would’ve required the Lakers to part ways with both Bynum and Gasol for Howard and Al Harrington you said it didn’t make sense to you. If you’re Mitch Kupchak, would you have ever given up both of these men in a trade to receive Howard and a relatively underachieving veteran in Harrington?
Dave: The initial framework just wasn’t adding up. I had a source tell me that some of the names were right, some were wrong and some were missing. I had reported a few weeks earlier that the Lakers had no intention of packaging both Gasol and Bynum in order to receive Howard, so I was pretty confident in where Kupchak’s head was at in that regard.
Jeff: So when you finally found out the details of the trade you must have been as excited as I was. How happy were you to know that not only was Superman coming to LA, but that Pau Gasol would still be there right beside him to take the court next season?
Dave: I am excited for the storylines. There are so many big personalities on this team for next season in Kobe, Pau, Dwight and Steve Nash. There will be an abundance of material to mine from. How are Kobe and Nash getting along? How are Kobe and Dwight getting along? How are Dwight and Nash running the pick-and-roll? How is Dwight making up for Kobe and Nash’s diminishing defensive skills out on the perimeter? Will Pau return to 2010 form now that the trade rumors are behind him? Will Mike Brown be able to handle this challenge? I don’t think there will be too many dull moments in Laker Land next year, and that certainly makes me excited to go to work.
Jeff: As a huge Sixers fan and longtime writer, I lost my mind when I found out that Andrew Bynum would be suiting up for the Sixers next season. He immediately becomes the focal point of the Sixers offensive attack. How do you see him fitting in with this team?
Dave: Andrew is an interesting dude. He’s tremendously gifted and has the pride/ego factor that makes him want to be a great individual player. He still has strides to make as a teammate, but let’s all remember he’s just 24 years old. He’s the best Sixers center since Moses Malone. He’s at the point in his career, fully healthy and coming off his first All-Star season, where he is ready to be the No. 1 option. It’s a shame Philly lost Lou Williams, however. Him and Bynum are very close and ‘Drew told me that if he and Lou hadn’t declared for the NBA Draft out of high school, they were seriously considering both going to college together at Georgia.
Jeff: You’ve obviously had to analyze Bynum very closely as both a player and a person during his tenure with the Lakers for the past few seasons. People all over the realm of basketball have questioned his maturity, attitude, and work ethic time and again. Do you think these are fair criticisms for Bynum or do you think that people have just put the man under a big 7-foot, 285 pound microscope?
Dave: They’re fair. Look, I am the first to give ‘Drew credit for his magnificent effort in the 2010 playoffs (dragging his bum knee up and down the court in all 23 games of their title run) and for the mental toughness he’s shown in rehabbing injuries non-stop for nearly four years without losing motivation. I have also marveled at his 30-rebound game against San Antonio and his 10-block game in the playoffs against Denver last year. But I’ve also seen him roll his eyes so bad when Mike Brown was giving him instructions that it looked like it was the early onset of a seizure and I was the first to report last season that he blew off a meeting with Kupchak, which is not only unprofessional, it’s disrespectful. He comes with some flaws, but it’s not like they will stop Philly from embracing him. Look at Allen Iverson.
Jeff: Obviously one of the biggest incidents Bynum created as a Laker was when he threw a blatant cheapshot to a defenseless J.J. Barea in the 2011 playoffs against the Mavericks in a blowout. Not only that, but he then removed his jersey during the uproar of raucous Mavs fans as he exited into the locker room. You were there, what was he thinking and was this the final straw Phil Jackson needed to move into retirement?
Dave: Phil was already going to retire. That incident just happened to put an ugly punctuation mark on a disappointing season that bookended PJax’s brilliant career. I really don’t know what Andrew was thinking there. I think he was embarrassed for the Lakers’ effort and frustrated by Barea’s consistently solid play during the course of the four-game sweep and became a bit of a bully.
Jeff: For this incident to happen, to Bynum making a complete 360 and having the kind of career year he had last season, what made the difference in your mind?
Dave: I wouldn’t say he was all that different last season. He was in better shape, in better health and his skills continued to develop, but it’s still the same wiring between his ears.
Jeff: Do you feel like Lakers fans were finally embracing Bynum for the type of talent he is?
Dave: Yes, he received more individual attention than he had at any point in his seven-year career and I think he enjoyed that.
Jeff: Do you think that Mike Brown might have gotten through to Bynum a little bit more than Phil had as coach?
Dave: Nope. Just the opposite. Phil kept Andrew in check. Andrew seemed to treat Mike kind of like a substitute teacher, always seeing just how much he could get away with.
Jeff: Bynum pretty much single-handily willed the Lakers to their series win over the Nuggets in round one of the playoffs last season. What were your thoughts of Bynum during the series and the signs of dominance he was able to put forth on a nightly basis when the team desperately needed him to do so?
Dave: I disagree with that. Kobe had some pretty good games. Pau and Steve Blake were the heroes of that Game 7, despite Bynum’s 16 points and 18 rebounds. Bynum had that Game 1 for the ages (a triple-double, including 10 blocks), but the series probably wouldn’t have gone seven games if ‘Drew came focused every game. He admitted he wasn’t ready to perform at his best in L.A.’s Game 3 loss in Denver because he showed up late to the arena for his pregame routine.
Jeff: The entire team was simply out-played by the Thunder in Round 2, however Bynum still was able to put up some numbers that most coaches would be happy with. Do you think Howard in the same position last season would’ve: A) Been able to put up the kind of numbers Bynum did against the Nuggets? And: B) Been able to put the Lakers in a better position to win against the Thunder in Round 2 facing who people call his “kryptonite” in Kendrick Perkins?
Dave: Who knows. Howard was hurt last year. Bynum was healthy. In other years (see: 2009 NBA Finals) it was just the opposite. At this point in their careers, I feel like Howard is the better athlete and better overall player, but Bynum is a better offensive player and might even have a better edge when it comes to attitude on the court than the fun-loving Howard does.
Jeff: Getting back to the Sixers, their roster now holds the youngest average age of its players in the entire league at just 23.8. That’s younger than me, do you realize this?
Dave: You’re getting old.
Jeff: For a coach like Doug Collins who’s known to favor his veterans over his youth, what is his dilemma now in your mind?
Dave: He’s got to get Bynum on board from the start, while at the same time keeping Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young feeling needed. Just how well those four players progress will determine if the Sixers are simply a playoff team or a championship contender.
Jeff: Do you think that the situation Andrew Bynum finds himself in Philly might be a better situation than he had in LA just simply based on the fact that he’s now among guys who are more his peers and where he’ll be able to be the number one option in the offense instead of basically the third option that he was with the Lakers?
Dave: Nope. He was the second option on the Lakers, let’s get that clear. And he was showing some signs of being the No.1 (Kobe even drew up a play against the Celtics during the regular season where Bynum got the ball to make the game-winning shot). I think there is certainly an upside for Andrew in Philly, but he could have won a championship next year in L.A. and I don’t think that’s the case for him in Philadelphia.
Jeff: What is the biggest struggle you think Bynum have in Philly? Do you think the media will eat him alive or do you think he’s already been through the ringer enough times in L.A. to the point where it doesn’t even faze him anymore?
Dave: He doesn’t care about the media. Doesn’t read what we write or listen to what we say, so there is very little chance that any of that will suddenly change. He’ll struggle if he reinjures himself and ends up regretting not signing an extension this summer rather than waiting until the summer of 2013 for a new five-year, max-level deal.
Jeff: Andrew Bynum had nearly double the production in points, rebounds, and blocks last season than Spencer Hawes, Kwame Brown, and Lavoy Allen had combined — Bynum: 1123 points, 709 rebounds, 116 blocks vs. Hawes/Brown/Allen:: 581 points, 498 rebounds, 66 blocks
Does this make you wonder if the Sixers had been in talks with Mitch Kupchak over a trade for Bynum or Gasol way before the blockbuster happened last week? Could the Sixers even have survived with that front-court next season?
Dave: I’m sure they spoke at some point before last Wednesday when the trade started to really take shape. There have been rumors of Andre Iguodala coming to L.A. for the last couple years so it only stands to reason that Bynum and/or Pau was discussed before.
Jeff: What do you think the Sixers lose the most next year from the departure of Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, and Elton Brand?
Dave: Veteran reliability along with some explosive/athleticism from Iggy and Sweet Lou. At the end of the day though, that core was a playoff team, not a championship team and the new Sixers’ ownership seems committed to get back to the glory of 1983.
Jeff: On the flip side, what do you think the Sixers gain not only bringing in Bynum, but bringing in guards Jason Richardson and Nick Young and forwards Dorell Wright and Arnett Moultrie, plus another center in Kwame Brown?
Dave: There aren’t many guys in the league whose game I have a man crush on like Nick Young and being a shooter myself, I also really appreciate Dorell Wright’s game. I also think J-Rich has more in the tank than he’s getting credit for. I think the Sixers definitely improved.
Jeff: A lot of analysts are already predicting this Sixers team to become a very similar team to the Orlando Magic team that reached the Finals in 2009. Do you see similarities in the way their roster is currently setup?
Dave: A big-time center surrounded by outside shooters? Sure. I can see it. But LeBron’s Cavs team that the Magic beat to get to the Finals wasn’t nearly as good as LeBron’s Heat team that the Sixers will have to beat to pull off the same feat.
Jeff: What are the Sixers’ most glaring weaknesses that you see at the moment?
Dave: Inexperience. Not only do they have a bunch of young guys, but they have a bunch of young guys that haven’t played together before now that they shuffled the roster so dramatically this off-season. There will be some growing pains.
Jeff: Do you think the Sixers have the potential to become a Thunder-like franchise in the near future?
Dave: Let’s not go there. There is only one Thunder team. They had three of the 12 players on Team USA, including Kevin Durant who had the highest-scoring Olympics in USA Basketball history.
Jeff: Most important question. If you’re Andrew Bynum, what does it take for you to sign a long-term deal that keeps you in Philadelphia and give’s this city an opportunity down the road to capture an NBA championship?
Dave: It’s all economics. If he signs an extension now, he can tack on three years to the one year he has left on his deal, giving him four years guaranteed money. If he plays out the season, he can tack on five years with a new contract, giving him six years guaranteed money. He will wait until the summer of 2013 before he signs anything.
Jeff: Bynum once stated that “there’s a bank in every city”, does this make you believe that if obviously Bynum doesn’t get injured next season and if he thrives in Philly’s offense and if he’s offered the right amount of money that there’s a very strong chance he’ll be around for a while?
Dave: The “right” amount of money in Bynum’s eyes is just whatever the max deal is. I am confident he won’t turn down a max, five-year deal with Philly to pursue a four-year deal with another free agent suitor that will be worth about $20 million less.
Jeff: Well Dave, thank you very much for taking the time out of your I’m sure extremely busy and sleepless schedule to answer these questions. You have given us more than enough food for thought for this upcoming season. It looks as though the Sixers and Lakers have become two of the most anticipated teams to take the court next season and I’m glad that we’ll have both coasts covered when that time comes. I just have to ask one more thing, do we have any shot against the Heat?
Dave: “We?” Jeff, I’m pretty sure our playing careers won’t include us suiting up for either of these two teams. I still see the Heat as the clear favorite, but a Heat-Sixers playoff series or a Heat-Lakers Finals would certainly be fun for us (meaning you and me) to watch.