Friday night, Tony DiLeo was
asked point-blank. No time to prepare an answer, no time to pause and reflect.
“That’s a situation that,
well, the player has to be confident he can play. You cannot ask a player to
play injured,” said DiLeo, the Sixers’ general manager. “Whenever he feels
confident he can get out there and he’s healthy and he can help the team, we
have the same goal. We don’t want a player going out there and getting injured
and creating more injury or more damage. It’s a situation where, when he feels
confident and the doctors feel more confident that everything’s OK, that’s when
he’ll be back on the court.”
The Sixers have won five of nine
games without Bynum, acquired Aug. 10 by trade. They have 28 games between
Sunday, at home against Cleveland, and Jan. 9 at Toronto. That date in January
not only closes out a stretch of nine of 10 games on the road, it also
represents the end of Bynum’s current timetable for return.
So if Bynum was ready to
return Jan. 12 against visiting Houston, he would’ve missed 37 games. That
would represent the most games Bynum has missed in a single 82-game season since
2007-08, when he played in only 35 games, starting 25.
DiLeo’s reply to that question
was a bit telling.
Knowing Bynum could be the
difference between a middle-of-the-road team in the East and a true contender …
knowing the Sixers have no allegiance to Bynum, who has an expiring contract,
beyond this season … knowing how highly anticipated his arrival here was
received … knowing that these injuries have dogged him throughout his career –
the Sixers have played the reticent card when it comes to inserting him into
practice before he’s fully ready.
It says plenty about the
Sixers and their desire to lock up Bynum. DiLeo said on three occasions Friday
that the team views this as a “long-term” relationship, that they don’t want to
sacrifice his health in the short-term for years of healthy play down the road.
“We’ve just got to find a way
to keep winning basketball games and hopefully he’ll be able to come back and
help us,” Sixers coach Doug Collins
said after the Sixers topped Utah, 99-93
what we’ve got to hope. And I do feel terribly for him. To be traded and come
in here and have everyone look at him as the centerpiece of a team and not be
able to play, that’s very tough – especially when you’re 24 years old, in the
last year of a contract. Those things, I’m sure, weigh heavily on him.”
And everyone involved, really.
Labels: Andrew Bynum, Doug Collins, injury report, Tony DiLeo