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.

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

BOSTON – With his new head coach Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics ownership and front office officials surrounding him, Jayson Tatum’s mind seemed to be somewhere else briefly.

He looked ahead, way, way ahead to the other end of the Celtics’ practice court where there were banners, lots of banners, raised high above all else in the gym.

This wasn’t just a passing glance, either.

TATUM SPEAKS

It was clear that the newest Celtic was in deep thought as he stared at the 17 banners and the one left blank, a steady reminder of what this franchise is about, past and present.

Yes, it’s a lot to soak in for anyone let alone a 19-year-old kid whose career with the Celtics can be timed on a stopwatch.

But the soft-spoken 6-foot-9 forward has been here long enough to understand that success around here is about more than playing well; it’s playing to win a championship.

And that in many ways separates Tatum from his teenage brethren who made up the majority of Thursday night’s NBA draft which included an NBA-record 17 players taken in the first round who like Tatum, were just one year removed from high school.

All come into the NBA with lots to learn, as well as goals and aspirations for this upcoming NBA season.

During an interview with CSN on Friday, I asked Tatum about what in his mind would make for a successful season.

And his answer initially was to ask me a question, “Individual or team?”

So I replied, either one.

“To get back to where they were last year and get over that hump,” he said. “Championships, chasing that number 18, that would be the ultimate success for me.”

That served as a reminder as to why despite having a handful of players under consideration at No. 3, the Celtics did the right thing in selecting Tatum.

His words may seem like the politically correct response, but take a look at the kid’s basketball resume and you’ll quickly see he is indeed about winning and doing so in whatever way possible.

After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot injury, Tatum gradually improved as the season progressed and wound up on the all-rookie team as well as being named to the All-ACC third team.

Once the Blue Devils got to the ACC Tournament, Tatum became a different, better, more dominant player.

Indeed, Tatum led the Blue Devils to their first ACC championship since 2011 and did so in historic fashion as the Blue Devils became the first ACC school to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.

Late in the title game against Notre Dame, Tatum put together a sequence of plays that speaks to why the Celtics were seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick had they not been able to trade it for the No. 3 and a future first-round pick.

With the scored tied at 65, Tatum made a free throw that put Duke ahead.

Moments later, he blocked a shot and finished off the play with a lay-up that gave Duke a three-point lead.

After a Notre Dame basket, Tatum connected with a teammate for a 3-pointer that pushed Duke’s lead to four points with around a minute to play.

And then there was the 3-point play Tatum converted after getting fouled on a dunk which secured a 76-69 Duke win over the Fighting Irish.

Free throws. Blocks. Getting out in transition. Passing.

When his team needed him most, he gave whatever was required at that moment which is one of the intangibles that makes Boston feel good about his future.

“He does whatever he has to do to help you win,” said an NBA scout who said he has seen Tatum play “at least a dozen times.”

He added, “Like all of these kids coming into the league now, he has some things he has to get better at, get more consistent with. But he makes winning plays, whether it’s for himself or others. He’s a lot more unselfish a player than he’s given credit for being.”

And he’s 19 years old, which is both a blessing and a burden when you’re an NBA team executive charged with committing at least two years and millions of dollars into a young man.

Part of the process when making a draft choice, especially when it’s one of the top picks, is character evaluation.

Of the players at or near the top of the draft board, multiple league executives contacted by CSNNE.com in the past couple of weeks said this was an area where Tatum stood out in comparison to all of the top prospects.

“He’s the kind of young man you’d love whether he was a basketball player or not,” one Western Conference executive told CSNNE.com. “If you’re ranking guys on character alone in this draft, he’s your number one pick.”

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the challenge of differentiating between miscues made by a teenager as being problems of concern going forward, or whether that’s a teenager making the kind of bad/questionable decisions most teens make.

“It’s dangerous to play too much into a 19-year-old kid’s behavior,” Ainge told CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper on Friday. “But I think that, with all the things we do, from physical, emotional, mental, character, work ethic and their skills … it’s just really hard at 19. You hate to just be labeled what you are at 18.”

But in regards to Tatum specifically, Ainge added, “Jayson is a high character guy. We know he will get better because of his character and his work ethic.”

Said Tatum: “It’s a great feeling. Being part of a great organization like the Celtics; think of all the great players of the past and you can follow in their footsteps.”

And in doing so, blaze a trail of his own in the pursuit of Banner 18.

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

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David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."