THEORETICALLY, the best trades are the ones where all parties involved come away feeling like they accomplished what they wanted to accomplish.

But what happens when nobody seems like they're getting what they bargained for? That's been the undertone of the NBA's blockbuster trade that involved four teams, including the Sixers, and moved the best two centers currently residing on the planet.

Everybody expected that the transaction in August, which sent All-Star center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, All-Star center Andrew Bynum to the Sixers, Olympian Andre Iguodala to Denver and a host of throw-ins to the Nuggets and the Orlando Magic would have NBA Finals repercussions on both coasts.

With Howard, the league's best big man, the Lakers were expected to regain their championship form and be in the thick of the battle for the Western Conference title along with the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.

In Bynum, the Sixers were supposed to get a gifted low-post scorer who nobody in the Eastern Conference could go one-on-one against. With Bynum and the continued development of young core players Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, the Sixers were a wild card with the potential to challenge the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference title.

On Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center, with a little more than a quarter of the 2012-13 NBA season in the book, the Sixers and Lakers met for the first time since the trade. Neither team looked like an NBA Finals contender.

The Lakers won, 111-98, to improve to 11-14 and drop the Sixers to 12-12. If the playoffs started today, neither team would be in.

Back in August, when the trade went down, who would have thought the Sixers and Lakers would be looking at the NBA lottery heading into Christmas?

And who would have thought that the best move the Sixers made in the deal was making sure the first-round pick that went to Orlando was lottery-protected?

The Sixers are still waiting for Bynum and his gimpy knees to participate in his first practice since they surrendered Iguodala, the All-Star swingman, to Denver and the first-round pick plus second-year center Nick Vucevic and rookie forward Moe Harkless to Orlando for him.

The latest call-me-when-you're-ready-to-play comment from Bynum came before Sunday's game when he said, "Personally, [the Lakers] I think they traded No. 1 for No. 2."

Although still not setting a timetable for his return, Bynum, who has a doctor's appointment and a possible MRI scheduled for Thursday in New York City, added, "I think I could do wonders for this team because, right now, we don't have a lot of post threat and it would help free up a lot of guys from outside. . . . It would be good to join them."

Well, yes, Andrew it would be.

The Sixers have Bynum's injury as an excuse for why this season isn't going as well as anticipated. But the Lakers have had Howard, who recovered from offseason back surgery, for all 25 games. Yet they are the most disappointing and dysfunctional team in the Association thus far.

The Lakers have already replaced coach Mike Brown with Mike D'Antoni; have free-agent guard Steve Nash on the injured list; have forward Pau Gasol playing sporadically because of knee tendinitis; and have Howard and Mr. Laker, Kobe Bryant, reportedly snipping at each other because of Bryant's generous shot selection.Against the Sixers, Bryant had 34 points on 12-for-24 shooting while Howard had 17 points on 13 shots.

Originally, Howard didn't embrace the Lakers. He wanted to go to the Brooklyn Nets. If, however, the Lakers had jumped out to a strong start and looked dominant, few people would be wondering about Howard's loyalty come season's end and free agency.

Generally, in these cases, I'd say follow the money, and since the Lakers can give him more years and more money than anyone else, Howard will likely stay.

But if Howard starts to think like LeBron Jamesand Chris Bosh when they accepted slightly less money to have a shot at a championship with the Miami Heat, the gamble the Lakers took could potentially blow up in their faces, even worse than it might for the Sixers.

The Lakers went all in on Howard. Despite erasing nearly $20 million in salary if Howard elects not to stay, the Lakers are still at $78.1 million for 2013-14 - leaving them no wiggle room to replace Howard.

The Sixers, on the other hand, will have flexibility if Bynum never gets healthy enough or simply chooses to never play for them.

With Bynum's $16.9 million and other expiring contracts potentially coming off the books, the Sixers' payroll will drop from $80.9 million to $46.9 million.

Even though cap numbers aren't set for next season, the Sixers will likely have more than $10 million available with which to attack free agency.

But are Holiday, Turner and Young enough of a core to entice a big-time free agent to join them?

Wow, a trade involving the two best big men in the game and this is where we are.

Back when Christmas came in August for the Sixers and Lakers, who knew it was going to be "Bah, humbug?"