Philadelphia, PA – The people of Philadelphia, in order to form a more perfect union, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare of the city, helped establish a new-era of 76ers basketball on Wednesday.
Forgive the Constitution shtick but it's hard to resist since the Sixers introduced their new All-Star center Andrew Bynum at the National Constitution Center in a press conference open to the public.
A throng of Philadelphia fans, who were on hand to welcome Bynum as well as sharpshooter Jason Richardson, broke out in chants of "Andrew Bynum!" and "Beat L.A.!" as the big man walked to the staging area.
It's probably lost on this generation but the Sixers were once one of the marquee teams in all of basketball with two legendary incarnations, the 1966-67 version, built on the back of Wilt Chamberlain, as well as the '82-83 bunch, which won an NBA title after acquiring Moses Malone from Houston.
There have been no championships in the City of Brotherly Love since that Malone and Julius Erving-led group and it's no coincidence since Moses was the last great big man the Sixers' franchise had.
There have been serviceable options over the years like Mike Gminski, Theo Ratliff and Dikembe Mutombo along with abject failures like Shawn Bradley and Sharone Wright but Philadelphia's days as a consistent title threat dried up the day Malone moved on.
It's probably a little premature to place this group of 76ers alongside Miami, the Lakers and Oklahoma City as a real championship contender for 2012-13 but they sure are a lot closer after getting Bynum, the NBA's top offensive pivot as well as a solid defensive presence, in the Dwight Howard blockbuster.
The Sixers got the All-Star for a song and a dance, giving up Andre Iguodala to Denver and sending youngsters Maurice Harkless and Nik Vucevic to Orlando along with a future protected first round pick.
Iguodala is certainly a very good basketball player and both Harkless and Vucevic have some upside but securing a 7-foot, 285-pound game-changer for a role player and a couple of question marks had many wondering whether Rod Thorn was wearing a mask when he pulled it off.
And with Bynum in the City of Brotherly Love, no lottery protection will be needed. The big man finished the 2011-12 season by averaging 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game while also flashing his dominance by recording a pair of 20-20 games as well as a 30-rebound effort.
However, despite those gaudy numbers, Bynum was often the third option in Hollywood behind Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
In Philadelphia, Bynum will be the straw that stirs the drink and he figures to force the kind of consistent double teams which should open the floor for the Sixers' ascending players like Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner as well as a trio of big-time three-point shooters acquired this offseason, Richardson, Dorell Wright and Nick Young.
"It's the next step in my career," Bynum said of headlining this Philadelphia team. "It's a lot more exciting and a lot more fun knowing they are going to run (the offense) through you. Looking at the roster, we have a deep team. The sky is the limit."
Bynum is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season but by making the deal the Sixers have secured his "Bird Rights." Thanks to the new CBA, that means Philadelphia can offer Bynum a five-year contract after this season with 7.5 percent annual raises as opposed to a maximum of four years and 4.5 percent annual raises from any other team.
Asked what he was thinking when he first heard about the trade, the Plainsboro, NJ native said: "I'm coming home."
And don't think the fans devotion was lost on the object of their affection.
"To be honest, my first experience here's been so great, I'm really looking forward to making this my home," Bynum said.
To their credit the Sixers' brass understood they topped out last season with the talent on hand and had to grab for the brass ring.
Sure, Bynum has had some maturity issues in the past and you have to worry about a guy that big who has had a history of knee problems before his 25th birthday. But, he's also got a championship pedigree, seems to have gotten over the hump physically and is starting to show signs that he gets "it."
Bynum missed an average of 31 games in his first four seasons but toiled in 60-of-66 in 2011-12, a lockout shortened season filled with back-to-back-to- backs. Meanwhile, four of those absences were due to a suspension.
Bynum also has gone proactive, setting up a visit to Germany in September where he will undergo the same non-invasive platelet-rich plasma knee procedure that Kobe, Grant Hill and Alex Rodriguez swear by.
"It's work, every single day. Day in and day out," Bynum said. "I'm looking forward to getting into the locker room and sharing (his championship experience) with our team."
So are the Sixers, who think they finally have their heir apparent to Wilt and Moses.
"(Bynum will) be a focal point of what we do," Thorn said on WIP Radio before the press conference. "We've gone from a small, not-very-physical team to a big, strong, physical team."