Bynum sits, Iguodala awaits in 76ers’ opener

Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bynum will forever be linked in the

same transaction.

The All-Stars weren’t traded straight up – yes, it took four

teams, 10 other players, and five draft picks to move Iguodala from

Philadelphia to Denver and Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers to the

76ers – but in Philly, the trade is viewed through a one-for-one

prism.

Without a game played, Sixers fans say their team came out on

top.

While Bynum remains indefinitely sidelined with a bone bruise in

his right knee, the Sixers faithful would have traded Iguodala for

some warm bodies to fill the training camp roster.

Credit general manager Tony DiLeo and team president Rod Thorn

for getting so much more for Iguodala, a player who had come to

represent the mediocrity that plagued the Sixers until last

season’s surprising run to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Iguodala was a solid player for nine seasons with the Sixers,

playing a full 82 games in five of them, and was easily their top

perimeter defender. He was one of the flashier dunkers in the

league and his long road toward stardom was rewarded last season

with his first All-Star berth and a gold medal in London playing

for the star-studded U.S. men’s team.

He was just never fully embraced by Philly fans.

His biggest moment came last season after Iguodala sank the

winning free throws with 2.2 seconds left in a 79-78 victory over

the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in Game 6, helping them advance to the

second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time

since 2003.

Iguodala hopped on the scorer’s table and played to the crowd as

the catchy 76ers’ anthem blared in the arena.

The fans went wild and, for a moment, he was the most popular

athlete in Philly.

It’s the highlight the Sixers will surely play in a video

tribute to Iguodala before the Nuggets open the season at

Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

The video might be the only reason almost 20,000 fans don’t boo

him out of the building.

Iguodala criticized the way coach Doug Collins handled him and

said he didn’t enjoy basketball most of the last two seasons. He

told CBSSports.com his enthusiasm from last season was dampened

because he found criticism ”draining.”

Well, that won’t endear him to anyone in his return to

Philadelphia. Not that he cares.

”I really haven’t thought about it,” Iguodala said.

Asked in Denver if he hoped he’d be cheered, Iguodala said, ”I

really don’t care. It’s just basketball.”

Collins, starting his third season coaching the 76ers, took the

high road discussing Iguodala.

”He left on a very high note, which is the thing I’m very happy

about,” Collins said. ”The two years that I was here, what we

did, he was such a huge part of it. I’m sure Dre’s going to want to

come in here and win.”

Iguodala’s return will be overshadowed by Bynum’s absence.

The 25-year-old Bynum will sit out the opener as he recovers

from the bone bruise that has plagued him since before the start of

training camp. Bynum was held out of all preseason activity and the

Sixers ran their offense without him, instead of through him, for

the last month.

Bynum told the Sixers he could play with the pain he’s feeling.

The Sixers are being cautious with Bynum and refuse to rush him

back. They’d rather have the services of the center considered the

best in the East for the long haul instead of a few games, or even

a few weeks, at the start of the season.

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.

”I know one thing, I know he wants to play right now,” Collins

said. ”We have to really be smart in all the things we do in help

him monitor that situation. Sometimes, an athlete’s competitive

heart can get the best of him.”

The Sixers said Tuesday that Bynum has started low-impact

conditioning work, and will be re-evaluated by medical personnel on

a continuous basis. Bynum shot 3-pointers while his teammates egged

him on following a late practice at the Wells Fargo Center.

”He’s feeling a lot better and his spirits are better,”

Collins said Tuesday. ”That’s all positive stuff.”

Collins said power forward Thaddeus Young and center Lavoy Allen

will start.

They’re a nice duo for sure, but the Sixers aren’t an Atlantic

Division contender without Bynum.

Follow Dan Gelston on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APgelston