Andrew Bynum gets quite a welcome in Philly

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Andrew Bynum gets quite a welcome in Philly

From Comcast SportsNet
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- He heard the roar from hundreds of Philadelphia 76ers fans chanting "An-drew By-num! An-drew By-num!" the moment he stepped into the National Constitution Center. Andrew Bynum instantly felt at home in Philadelphia. He enjoyed his first days in the city so much, Bynum made it clear he wouldn't mind playing in that No. 33 Sixers jersey for more than a season. "My first experiences here have been so great," Bynum said, "I'm really leaning toward making this my home. With that proclamation, Sixers fans erupted. The superstar the organization and their fans craved since Allen Iverson split actually loved them back. Imagine the sounds he'll hear after some clutch fourth-quarter buckets over a deep playoff run. Wearing a Sixers T-shirt, Bynum made his first appearance Wednesday since he was acquired last week from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a four-team megadeal. Former Philadelphia All-Star Andre Iguodala landed in Denver and Orlando shipped Dwight Howard to the Lakers as part of the trades. The Sixers scrapped the usual ho-hum press conference and turned Bynum's arrival into a full-blown pep rally that included moving the location from their arena to just a few hundred feet away from the Liberty Bell. The event was open to the public and fans arrived early to greet Bynum and Jason Richardson -- and plunk down 30 bucks for some hot-off-the-presses Bynum T-shirts. "It makes me super-excited," said Bynum, who never stopped smiling. The Sixers have every reason to feel giddy over this deal and what this means for the long-term future of the franchise. For years, Philadelphia has been mired in the middle of the Eastern Conference, only busting out last season under new ownership to advance to the second round for the first time in nine years. But the glow of that achievement soon faded once management realized the team had maxed out with veterans Iguodala, Elton Brand, and Lou Williams. Iguodala was traded, Brand was amnestied and Williams was allowed to walk in free-agency, freeing up some needed dollars to make a move this big. Bynum is the All-Star, the franchise player, expected to soon help the Sixers win their first championship since 1983. Only 24, the New Jersey native won two championships with the Lakers. But in Los Angeles, the offense ran through Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Bynum is The Man for the Sixers. "Obviously, there's a lot of pressure," Bynum said. "I want to be ready for it." Consider this: Until last week, Kwame Brown was listed as Philadelphia's starting center. That's called an upgrade. But once the hoopla and "Beat L.A.!" chants quieted down, two questions loomed in the building that honors the U.S. Constitution: Would Bynum put his John Hancock on a possible-five year contract extension; and how will his achy knees respond to treatment next month in Germany? Bynum is set to make 16.1 million this season in the final year of his deal. If he waits until after the season, Bynum can sign a five-year deal worth nearly 102 million. No other team could offer Bynum as many years or as much money. "I enjoy Philly, I'm from here, I don't see anything wrong," Bynum said. "I don't see any problem why I wouldn't want to stay here." Bynum is set to have injections of plasma-rich platelets that supposedly stimulate healing in arthritis-affected areas in both of his knees. Bryant, his former teammate, has credited the therapy with dramatic improvement in his own troublesome right knees and an injured left ankle. Sixers president Rod Thorn said Bynum and his surgically repaired knees checked out fine after a lengthy physical on Tuesday. "You've got to take calculated risks sometimes," Thorn said. "Players of his level don't come on the market every day." Bynum is coming off his best NBA season after averaging career highs with 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds while making his first All-Star team, starting for the West. He was the NBA's third-leading rebounder and 20th-leading scorer, while also ranking sixth in the league with 1.93 blocked shots per game. Bynum also avoided the injuries that have dogged him throughout a seven-year career since the Lakers made the New Jersey high schooler the youngest player ever drafted in 2005. Bynum played in 60 of the Lakers' 66 regular-season games, missing four due to suspension. Ah yes, that suspension. Bynum may be the best center in the East, but he brings a touch of baggage that shouldered him with a reputation as being a handful, as well as a monster rebounder. He was busted three years ago partying at the Playboy Mansion posing with a girl on his shoulders during his rehab from a torn knee ligament. Bynum served a four-game suspension this season for his vicious fouls against J.J. Barea in the Lakers' final playoff game last spring. He's has declined to participate in certain team huddles, sitting down the bench by himself. He once slapped hands with opposing fans while taking a long time to leave the court after he was ejected from a game last season in Houston. "I think somewhere along the line, maybe he said a couple of immature things here and there, but everybody has," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "I'm sure he'd be the first one step up and say, Hey, I messed up.' The unfortunate thing in life, when you make a mistake like that, it's one video replay from living it again." The Sixers would prefer more replays of Bynum's 30-rebound game like he had last season against San Antonio. Except for some minor tinkering with the deep bench players, the Sixers should be finished with their roster overhaul. They added Bynum, Richardson, Brown, Royal Ivey, Dorell Wright and Nick Young to a team counting on returners Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young to help make that second-round exit the start of something big, not a one-season wonder. With one season left on his deal, Thorn is still calling the shots, even as the organization spent the summer interviewing general manager candidates. Thorn will remain with the team next season as a consultant and the Sixers would like to have a succession plan in place. "That will happen over the next year but it's going to depend on who we can to terms with and who's out there," owner Joshua Harris said. "There's nothing imminent right now. Rod's still the GM of the team." Thorn drafted Michael Jordan in Chicago. He's the executive who traded for Jason Kidd in New Jersey and turned the Nets into winners. His boldest move with the Sixers is his best one yet.

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Wizards take stock of good and bad at midpoint of season

Wizards take stock of good and bad at midpoint of season

With their 104-101 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, the Wizards improved to 22-19 overall through 41 games, the exact midpoint of the 2016-17 season. They play again the next night in New York, so there will be little time for reflection of how they got here. But after beating the Grizzlies, head coach Scott Brooks and several of his players took a look back and a look ahead.

After beginning the season 2-8, they are now three games over .500. What have they liked about their season so far, and what do they still believe can be improved?

Brooks went into extensive detail.

“I didn’t like our start; I liked the last part of the first half, where we’ve played a much better since December. The thing I liked about the start [is that] we didn’t give in to a tough start, we kept battling and figuring out ways to get better – we’re tweaking and tinkering with the lineup, the starters mixing with some of the guys coming off of the bench. Some of our younger players have really done a good job of developing and staying with it when they’re not playing. It can be tough on you mentally, but I think our staff has done a good job to keep them engaged and keep them developing.

"I think Kelly [Oubre] has made some strides. He’s taken a few steps forward [and] taken a step back, but the step back he takes, he doesn’t get frustrated and takes another step. He always seems to bounce back and come back. Otto [Porter] has, I think, developed into the most consistent shooter in the league from the three. Every night it seems like he has it. And John [Wall] and Brad [Beal], I like the way they’re playing and leading. March [Marcin Gortat] has done a good job. I think we’re playing much better because we’re really buying into each other, and I think when you do that, teams have trouble beating us. I think at home, we’ve figured that out, but we have to figure out how to do it on the road.”

Guard Bradley Beal agreed with Brooks, that he was most pleased with how the Wizards rebounded from their dreadful start. 

“I like how we fought through adversity. I think we didn't give up on our slow start. We battled back and now we're over .500 now but just imagine if we were playing the way we were supposed to the first couple of games, our record would probably be a lot different. Definitely proud of the way we've been playing, the way we bounced back. We definitely can get better at playing great defense for 48 minutes, being locked in for 48 minutes. Just making sure we continue to respect our opponents and be prepared for every game moving forward.” 

[RELATED: CMills asks why Wall, Beal don't get more national attention]

Otto Porter gave a few reasons why he thinks they are playing better now than before.

“Back then it was early. We were still figuring each other out. New coaches, new players. Right now, we are starting to figure things out. We are confident in ourselves, playing for each other, playing hard and just rolling with it... Just, I guess figuring out things defensively. Everybody is on the same page. Offensively, just letting the game come to us. Moving the ball, and knowing that we want to be a defensive team," he said.

Improving away from the Verizon Center was a common theme in the answers from players. The Wizards are now 18-6 at home, while only the Golden State Warriors have more home wins. On the road, the Wizards are only 4-13 with the Nets the only NBA team featuring less road victories.

That's enough to give them the fifth seed in the East, but they know they still have plenty of work to do.

“We have a lot we can improve on: just closing out games, playing for a full 48-minutes, moving the ball at times when we get stagnant, but I like the effort that we gave," guard John Wall said of the first half of the season. "The way that we started the season, the way we had a great month of December, and we're playing well right now. It's great to take care of home court, just want to for the second half of the season improve on the road. If we can find a way to improve on the road I feel like we could have a better record. To be in the situation we are now, the way that we started the season, you can't ask for more.”

The Wizards were in a reflective mood, but Marcin Gortat put it bluntly where he thinks the Wizards are currently at.

“[The 22-19 record means] nothing. We have to continue to do what we do. We aren’t getting excited. We’ve been in this situation where we’ve been minus-five, under .500. We just have to focus and play and now we have to get some wins on the road," he said.

[RELATED: Grizzlies pay for ignoring Otto Porter]

Last-second layup secures Virginia Tech win over Georgia Tech

Last-second layup secures Virginia Tech win over Georgia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Seth Allen scored the final two of his 17 points on a layup with 15 seconds left to lift Virginia Tech to a 62-61 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

It was a game the Hokies needed after losing three of their past four games. Allen hit 6 of 9 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and Zach LeDay added 17 points.

Virginia Tech (14-4 overall, 3-3 ACC) led by as many as nine in the second half, but couldn't put away the Yellow Jackets (11-7, 3-3), who had two chances in the final seconds to take the lead. Georgia Tech turned the ball over with :09 left, and then fouled Virginia Tech's Justin Robinson, who missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Quinton Stephens missed a contested jumper at the buzzer that would have won the game for Georgia Tech.

Stephens paced the Yellow Jackets with 18 points.

MORE NCAA: Should Georgetown consider parting ways with John Thompson III?