TO PLAY or NOT TO PLAY???

Following Monday’s preseason drubbing of the Boston Celtics, Sixers owner Adam Aaron made the status of Andrew Bynum’s knee a little clearer on twitter.

Aaron’s tweets on Bynum’s knee are below:

 

…He did not have surgery in Germany, he had injections.

…He will not have surgery next week, just a routine injection he gets every year.

…While conditioning in September Andrew Bynum got the bone bruise in his knee, which was unrelated to the procedure.

…And, if all goes to plan Andrew Bynum will join the Sixers at practice on Oct. 24th.

This update should at least let fans give a tentative sigh of relief as there’s now a timetable for the big man’s return.  However, whether or not his knee still feels sore only 5 days from now remains to be seen.

The “routine injections” Aaron is speaking of are injections of Synvisc-One.  On the company website for Synvisc-One it explains that the drug is designed to treat Osteoarthritis, which is a very common form of arthritis pain in the knee.  In the case of Osteoarthritis, pain is caused by (in Bynum’s case) whatever cartilage is left in his knees trying to protect the ends of the bones from deteriorating and the fluid that’s in the joint losing its capability to absorb shock.

The injections are supposed to help the joint fluid with absorbing shock, and commonly can add up to six months of relief for the patient.

Sounds like good news, right?  Until you read a little bit further.

It takes about 4 weeks after the injection of Synvisc-One before the common patient experiences pain relief.  There can also be side effects such as knee swelling with a high volume of fluid buildup, and 29 percent of all patients who have had the procedure did not experience pain relief as a result of it.

One more thing that’s troubling.  How many of these patients are 7 foot tall, 285 pound NBA centers? You guessed it, just Bynum.

Obviously Bynum and the entire Sixers organization are making sure that he gets the best possible doctor to ensure the procedures best results, but a 71% success rate isn’t exactly what I had been imagining out of a “routine procedure”.  For a guy as big as Bynum, any setback from both his original procedure as well as this second one could result in a large stretch of games of us watching Bynum in Armani instead of his number 33.

Coach Doug Collins is obviously very aware of the situation facing his team.  He’s not trying to push Bynum to rush back because he knows how crucial of a role he’ll play in the franchise’s future.

“A lot of that is going to be how he responds to increased activity,” Collins said when asked if Bynum would be ready for the start of the season.  “I know how important the home opener is, but we’re not going to do anything silly and have another setback where it costs you and now you have to miss those kinds of games.”

Would I like Andrew Bynum to suit up in the Sixers’ first game of the season against the Denver Nuggets?  Absolutely.  

Would I be happier to see Bynum suiting up in an Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Heat?  You betcha.

For the Sixers franchise the second question is more important than the first.  Although it’s just preseason, the Sixers “without” Bynum have looked impressive.  In fact they’ve gone above and beyond my expectations of them and could quite possibly manage without Bynum to start the season if he does indeed need more time to recover.  The team has gone over 100 points in each of their 4 preseason games and after a slow start defensively, they have really locked it down in their past two games.  As a team they forced 20 turnovers against the Celtics in a 107-75 win Monday and 14 in a 113-99 win over the Cavs on Wednesday.

Probable starters Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Lavoy Allen have looked strong in the past two games offensively and defensively.  Nick Young, Thaddeus Young, Maalik Wayns, and Dorell Wright have all impressed as well.

As my colleague Carey Smith pointed out in his last article, Spencer Hawes is now in great jeopardy of losing his starting position by the beginning of the season to either Thaddeus Young or rookie Arnett Moultrie.  And the shooting guard position is up for grabs as well, now that Jason Richardson has shown nothing offensively or defensively to prove he deserves the spot.

It’s incredible to think how much deeper this team is from a year ago, when it was already considered one of the deepest teams in the League.

Although November isn’t exactly an easy month for the Sixers, it’s a month that the team can overcome without Bynum.  December is the month that the team will really need Bynum’s services.

Bynum is the guy who changes this team from being a good team, to being an elite team.  As Evan Turner said after Wednesday’s game, “Right now, we’re just in the pre-Bynum era.”

Bynum will make everyone’s job on this team much easier on the defensive end.  Guards and forwards who were thinking about driving into the post against the Sixers will have second thoughts when they see an enforcer like Bynum filling out the paint.  This will force significantly more mid-range to outside looks from opponents where on-ball defenders like Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner should thrive defensively.

It should obviously make his partner in swats job a lot easier in the post as well, whether it be Lavoy, Thaddeus, Hawes, or Moultrie.

That’s only the defensive end.  Offensively Bynum will most likely draw a double-team on every play. As Nick Young said, “When Bynum comes back, it’s going to be double-team city.  The 3s are going to be flying.  ‘I’m open. I’m open.’”  During the preseason so far, the Sixers have hit an incredible 34 of 72 3-pointers (47%).  This is WITHOUT Bynum drawing double-teams on every play.  It’s crazy to think that we haven’t seen the best out of this team’s offense which has averaged 107 points per game already this preseason.

Not only will the shooters thrive with Bynum back, but they’ll now be able to dump the ball into Bynum on the blocks or drop the ball to him on pick and rolls.  They’ll have Bynum to set screens for players who can drive the ball to the basket in Holiday, Turner, Wayns, and the Youngs’.  They also have guys on the baseline such as Allen and Hawes who shoot at a high percentage if left open. Thinking about the possibilities with a healthy Bynum on the court should make all the Sixers coaches, players, and fans very excited.

The key word of that statement however is, “healthy”.  I’d love to see the big man out there to start the season as much as anybody, but I understand how much more crucial it is to have him fully healthy for when the team really needs him.  You’ve had to wait 25 years for a dominant center, what’s waiting an extra month going to change?

Follow us @Philadunkia or myself @Sixersblog

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