The Philadelphia 76ers and Andrew Bynum were the last to admit what everyone else had figured out. It was obvious weeks ago that the Sixers would go the entire 2012-13 season without Bynum in action. Yet the Sixers and Bynum finally admitted defeat on March 18, as the center will officially undergo season-ending knee surgery on March 19, according to the Associated Press.
Complications from his last knee procedure, along with some swelling and an ill-advised bowling game, kept Bynum out for the first 66 games of the season. With the Sixers now at 26-40 and having faded from the playoff chase weeks ago, there was little point in rushing his return.
The only reason for Bynum to play this season was to help decide if he was worth a long-term deal this summer. Instead, the Sixers will have to make that franchise-altering decision without having ever seen him play for them.
After the way this year played out, not many in Philadelphia will be eager for him to stay. On the off chance the Sixers are still considering it, this latest surgery will be crucial. Will it finally clean his knees enough to make him healthy again, or is he too far gone to ever be healed?
If he is too far gone, then the Sixers don’t have much of a case to give him a long-term deal. Even a mostly healthy Bynum may not be worth it, since it is clear he can go down again at any time. Nevertheless, at least one team will inevitably show faith in him and give him an expensive contract, but the question is whether Philadelphia should be that team.
The Sixers may not have a choice, since there won’t be many available superstars in free agency to take Bynum’s place, despite Philadelphia’s cap room. After the Sixers nearly made the Eastern Conference finals last year and traded for Bynum to begin with, rebuilding for the next few years until a more reliable star comes along sounds rather unappetizing.
These are the tough decisions Philadelphia knew it would have to make for some time. Now that Bynum has officially taken himself out of action until this fall, the harsh reality and harsh future to come is even clearer.