One city is best known for its historical grandeur, fine restaurants and rabid sports fans, while the other can only boast Elvis and BBQ. But, Philly and Memphis do share one very unique thing in common. The City of Brotherly Love and the Barbecue Pork Capital of the World have both had its professional basketball teams’ bamboozled by Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak in deals that allowed the Lakers to acquire two of the most dominant big men in the NBA – Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.
Yes, long before Kupchak alienated not one, but two coaches in Lakerland (including arguably the best coach in professional basketball history), he suckered our beloved Sixers franchise which was starved to leave the world of the irrelevant (that was nestled in a direction of going nowhere fast) to take on Andrew Bynum and his bum knee, scratch that, two bum knees.
The 76ers were supposed to receive a Bynum with plenty of superstar potential whose knee simply needed some rest. Once the knee was stable and now that he was out from under the Kobe dominated Lakers; he would ultimately come into his own as a perennial all-star.
At least, that’s what Bynum was supposed to be.
Instead, this what the Bynum era has become:
“He’ll miss the preseason, but be ready for the season’s opening tip.”
“He’ll miss the opener, but will be ready in a couple of weeks”
“He’ll miss most of December, but should be ready by January”
“Andrew Bynum suffers a setback while bowling, may be out to March”
“Andrew Bynum is out indefinitely”
Meanwhile, Kupchak got his coveted prize jewel in Dwight Howard, to go along with his everlasting mock version of Michael Jordan a.k.a. Kobe Bryant, and Gasol, his versatile forward, who he snatched from the gullible Memphis Grizzlies in 2008.
At the time, the biggest piece that Lakers gave up in the Gasol trade was KWAME BROWN! Yes, the same Kwame Brown that has, like a million-dollar nomad, wandered onto the Sixers’ roster. Even Aaron Mckie was shipped off to Memphis by the Lakers in the Gasol deal. Though, the Grizzlies did get the draft rights to Marc Gasol, and yes that worked out pretty well for them, eventually.
Yet, in the case of Kupchak’s trade with Sixers, Bynum has been nothing more than a bench vegetable, whose hair has been more intriguing than the anticipation of his return. After all, at least his hair is measurable.
The obvious difference between the Bynum acquisition and the Lakers trade for Gasol is that this deal involved multiple teams, and the Sixers did get Jason Richardson, in addition to unloading Andre Iguodala’s contract.
But, the similarity between the two trades is a depressing one for a Philadelphia fan base desperate for something to believe in. Kupchak rewarded the Lakers’ Hollywood fans with the treasure that he sought after and ultimately delivered, both in ‘08 and this past summer.
In Memphis, the Grizzlies front office can be consoled that now Marc Gasol is now a part of a team that is very competitive in a gigantically tough Western Conference. However, in Philadelphia, Doug Collins, Tony Dileo and company must deal with cruel realization that they may get absolutely nothing out of their prized possession in a trade that was supposed to catapult the franchise to the level of having NBA championship expectations each season.
Now, they are simply left with a very large man with bad suits and an overgrown outdated afro, taking up space on their roster – and payroll.
Still, there’s something a little bit fishy about Bynum’s entire situation.
Philadelphia has seen its fair share of guys who sat out for extremely extended sessions only to return late in the season. Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson famously was injured for most of the season in 2005, his final days in Philadelphia; yet he miraculously was able to play in the NBA Finals for the Spurs, though it was in fact garbage time.
What’s the point?
Here’s a frightening premonition for the Sixers’ top suits:
Andrew Bynum returns in April, playing dominant basketball and is everything that fans hoped he would be. Let’s assume the 7-6 even win a postseason round or 2. Bynum would have played well and effectively proved his value for maximum value contract; leaving Collins and Dileo in an unenviable position.
Do the Sixers sign a potential game changing big man with 2 bad knees to a long term deal? At this point, Bynum would have potentially won the hearts of the Phialdunkia nation.
But remember, the Sixers were victimized, just 4 years ago, in that same fashion, when they signed Elton Brand to long term deal with an extremely high price tag. It’s highly unlikely that the Sixers would walk that same line once again.
But, a strong playoff run lead by Bynum would make resigning him extremely mouth-watering.
Ultimately, that’s the problem with acquiring damaged goods. It’s damaged goods that Mitch Kupchak doesn’t have to concern himself with any more.
Maybe, in the end, that’s why he’s the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, and why the Sixers haven’t won a championship in 30 years.