Is it OK to criticize Philly's summer acquisition for bowling? Is Bynum or Jrue Holiday the main main in Philly? Are the playoffs still in the Sixers' future?
Our 5-on-5 crew examines the state of the Sixers and their center.
1. Fair or Unfair: Criticizing Bynum for getting hurt while bowling.
Maurice Brooks, ESPN.com: Fair. I already thought Bynum was injury prone. Getting hurt participating in a sport in which non-athletes have been known to perform better after consuming adult beverages did nothing to change my mind.
James Herbert, Hardwood Paroxysm: Fair, to a certain extent. You can say he shouldn't have been bowling multiple times a week with a bum knee, but to treat this incident as an indication of a wider problem with Bynum's personality is silly. He has goofy hair and he had a goofy injury, but this doesn't mean he's dumb or irresponsible.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, HoopSpeak: Unfair. Hurting your knee while bowling is like hurting your back while yawning. Sure, it can happen, but the issue is likely in the body part, and not the act itself.
Tom Sunnergren, Philadunkia: Unfair. While the headlines look bad, bowling is a basically riskless pastime. He wasn't sword swallowing. An important fact that tends to get obscured by the life-and-death way we cover sports is that professional athletes are human beings who continue to be alive both before and after games. They don't just materialize for 48 minutes a night 82 times a year. Sometimes they bowl.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Fair. Bynum has to know that until he's back on the court, where the attention and scrutiny will be squarely on his game, every aspect of his actions and absence will be dissected. Bowling, ordinarily, is a harmless and fun activity. But when it's the source of yet another frustrating setback for your supposedly franchise center, it rises to a sin.
2. OK or Not OK: Joking comments on Bynum's injury, hair, etc.
Brooks: OK. You know the person who wears the weird outfit to the comedy show, sits in the front row and then wonders why the comedian pokes fun at him all night? What did Bynum think was going to happen when he walked out of his crib with his hair like that?
Herbert: OK, though I think there should be some differentiation between joking about his hair and joking about his injury. I've seen plenty of both; the former is almost always funny to me, the latter almost never. I will admit that "#BOWLO" did make me laugh, though.
Strauss: OK. As someone who's come up with 1,049 analogies for what kind of flimsy material comprises Stephen Curry's ankles, I can't pass judgment on injury jokes. As for Bynum's hair and fashion, all that humor is out of love. Most of us love Drew's quirks.
Sunnergren: OK. An America in which we can't take potshots at an eccentric millionaire with an absurd haircut who got injured playing a game whose most enthusiastic participants are people with grandchildren would be a bleak one indeed.
Wallace: Not OK. Although it doesn't quite rise to the level of the ignorance that surrounded the Gabby Douglas drama. Because hairstyles are largely a cultural fashion and style statement, there should be some sense of sensitivity when it comes to criticism. But Bynum seems to be having some fun with it.
3. Holiday or Bynum: More likely to be a cornerstone 76er?
Brooks: Holiday. He is performing like an All-Star, and after Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams, he is the third-best point guard in the East. The Sixers are his team this season, even when Mr. Bynum is finally healthy enough to put on a Philly uniform. If Bynum re-signs, in the future they will share the Brotherly Love.
Herbert: Holiday. The Sixers have already made a long-term financial commitment to Holiday and head coach Doug Collins absolutely loves him. Collins has lots of input on personnel decisions in Philly, and there's no telling what his relationship will be like with Bynum until he's coached him. There's also the small matter of Bynum potentially demanding a max contract this summer.
Strauss: Holiday. Until the 76ers' medical staff demonstrates the ability to get Bynum to do anything, anything at all, I'm going with Jrue over Drew. Holiday is 22 years old and often appears a less controlling coach away from breaking out.
Sunnergren: Holiday, who already is a cornerstone player for the Sixers while Bynum hasn't so much as practiced with the team. But to answer a slightly different question, I don't think Holiday can be the best player on a champion. Bynum probably can.
Wallace: Holiday. He's already quietly been the team's franchise player. Philly can rely on Jrue to continue to be arguably the league's most rapidly improving player. That said, if Bynum ever gets right, his presence on the court could make the Sixers a real contender to challenge the Heat in the East.
4. Fact or Fiction: The Sixers will make the playoffs this season.
Brooks: Fact. The Phillies fell short of expectations, the Flyers, like the rest of the NHL are on strike, and the Eagles? Don't get me started on them. The one Philadelphia pro team that is postseason-bound is the Doug Collins-led Sixers, who play D and are as deep as anyone in the East.
Herbert: Fiction, but it's too early to make any such proclamation with confidence. The Sixers should be on the playoff bubble. When Bynum does eventually come back, they will need him to provide a huge offensive boost. At the same time, it will be a challenge for them not to slip too much defensively.
Strauss: Fact. The Eastern Conference is a foul-smelling swamp. After Miami and New York, playoff spots might become more accepted than deserved. Philly can play defense, and that should be enough.
Sunnergren: Fact. Unless they take advantage of Bynum's extended absence by flipping a few of their shinier spare parts and making a (di)spirited run at the lottery -- unlikely, though it might be the wisest play -- Doug Collins' team is just too proud, and the bottom half of the East too flawed, for the Sixers to miss the dance.
Wallace: Even if Bynum never suits up this season, the Sixers will make the playoffs for a third straight season under Doug Collins. After you reserve spots for Miami, Indiana, Boston, New York, Brooklyn and Chicago, you've still got two playoff seeds to fill. I don't see two other teams that are likely to keep Philly out of the mix.
5. Optimistic or Pessimistic: Long-term outlook for Sixers?
Brooks: Optimistic. The Sixers haven't had a franchise player since Allen Iverson (the first time), so I was beyond excited when they acquired Bynum, although I hated to see Andre Iguodala go. I'm putting a lot of faith in the fact that they'll be able to re-sign the Jersey guy, who if healthy and in shape, figures to be the best center in the East for years.
Herbert: Optimistic. Bynum's continued injury woes are cause for concern, but he is still a rare offensive talent at the center position and the Sixers have a better than average chance of re-signing him. With continued growth from Holiday, there's a pair of more than solid building blocks in Philadelphia.
Strauss: Optimistic. If Bynum never returns from injury, they'll likely pass on him in free agency and reap salary room for the future. If Bynum plays well, the 76ers have an intriguing Jrue-Drew connection for the next few years.
Sunnergren: Cautiously optimistic, but it all hinges on Bynum. The Sixers have a very good young point guard on a team-friendly deal, a better-than-advertised supporting cast, and a head coach who gets them to play defense. If their center can come back and show enough to warrant a max extension, they'll be fine. If not, they have a lot of first-round exits in their future.
Wallace: Optimistic. To an extent. To me, Bynum is a bonus if he sticks around and re-signs long-term. If he bolts, it means Philly could be in decent position from a cap-space perspective to find help. In other words, I don't trust Bynum's body or free-agency plans. But I do believe in the young core Philly has anchored by Holiday and the ability to reload on the fly if necessary to remain in the hunt.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Michael Wallace is an NBA reporter for ESPN.com. Maurice Brooks is an NBA editor for ESPN.com. James Herbert, Ethan Sherwood Strauss and Tom Sunnergren are part of the TrueHoop Network.
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