By DENNIS DEITCH
The 76ers have been trying to pry one of the Lakers' big men away from L.A. for some time. Finally, that quest is on the verge of happening.
And they got the guy in the prime of his career.
Andrew Bynum, the massive man-child who pivoted his way to All-Star status last season with the Lakers, not only is several player physicals away from being a Sixer, a source said he will come complete with a massive long-term contract that will make sure the organization isn't at risk of seeing him walk away after one season.
According to multiple media reports and confirmed by someone close to the progressive proceedings of the last 24 hours, a massive four-team deal involving three time zones and four All-Star players will land the Sixers Bynum and Magic veteran Jason Richardson, while giving up Olympian Andre Iguodala, rookie Maurice Harkless, second-year center Nik Vucevic and at least one future first-round draft selection.
The trade's details were still being hammered out Thursday night, but reports said it will make disgruntled Orlando center Dwight Howard a Laker. Iguodala goes to the Nuggets, while Denver's Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo, the Sixers' Harkless and Vucevic, and at least three first-round picks head to Orlando.
It was a deal that involved parties that long had been involved in separate discussions, and gradually morphed into a front-office orgy.
Much of these discussions had gone underground in recent weeks due to the fact that both Iguodala (United States) and Lakers big man Pau Gasol (Spain) were participating in the London Olympics, making any deals involving either contingent on their safe and healthy escape from the Summer Games.
The rapidly developing news started with a report early in the afternoon from Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. Gasol had been discussed as a piece going to Orlando for weeks, but the expanded deal allowed the Magic to get much more in the way of young talent from the Sixers and draft picks from each of the other three teams. So Gasol will remain in L.A.
Even though Iguodala has two more games to play for their respective Olympic Games, the fact that four front offices and eight players (and their agents) were involved - with both Howard and Bynum needing to agree to contract extensions to make the deals sing - made it almost impossible to keep muffled.
The Sixers are getting Bynum, who at 24 makes him an unprecedentedly young talent at center - Wilt Chamberlain (28), Moses Malone (27) and Dikembe Mutumbo (34) all were deeper into their Hall of Fame careers by the time they wore Sixer uniforms.
That isn't to say Bynum has a ticket to Springfield, Mass., waiting for him. But he is a wildly gifted and massive (7-0, 285) big man, despite giving the Lakers occasional headaches from both maturity and health standpoints. He had his best season as a professional in 2011-12, averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 60 games, and missed just six games after missing 77 games over the previous three seasons with knee problems. The Lakers exercised an option year at $16.5 million for him in 2012-13, and he was scheduled to be a free agent next summer. However, the Plainsboro, N.J., native apparently was amenable to signing a five-year extension worth in excess of $85 million to make the deal happen.
The deal brings an end to Iguodala's eight seasons in Philly, as his trade value reached a peak this summer thanks to a gutsy playoff performance that included his first postseason series win, and fortified by a valuable performance with the U.S. Olympic team.
Until this point the Sixers' offseason could have been kindly characterized as odd, harshly described as miserable.
But there's this funny thing about the NBA's offseason: Despite what many people assume, it doesn't end in July.
After the Sixers unsuccessfully searched for a draft-day deal for Iguodala in late June, there were some in the media who believed the All-Star swingman and U.S. Olympian was going to start the 2012-13 NBA season in Philadelphia. The Sixers essentially filled up the number of roster spots they had by drafting Harkless and Arnett Moultrie, signing Kwame Brown, Nick Young and Royal Ivey, and trading for Dorell Wright.
However, that left them loaded with swingmen on the roster in Iguodala, Evan Turner, Harkless and Wright, while the center position remained loaded with weak and unproven players.
But there were quiet assurances from those in the know that Iguodala's trade talks only went dormant in July so interested teams could make sure he didn't come out of the Olympics with a debilitating injury. Two summers ago Iguodala played heavy minutes for the U.S. National Team and the wear and tear showed during the 2010-11 season. While he has played impressively in London, he has played fewer minutes and the physical burden has been much lighter.
With this deal, the team becomes centered around Bynum, with point guard Jrue Holiday and Turner expected to flourish with an impact big man on the low post. It also allows Spencer Hawes to more comfortably play his perimeter game and gives the Sixers a pair of 7-footers to go along with one of the best rebounding guards in Turner.