THORN ON THE HORN

Posted by: Tom Sunnergren
09/17/10 1:01 pm EST

Why hire a guy to run your franchise who just finished a roller coaster career up the Turnpike in New Jersy?  I was a little confounded at first by the Thorn hiring, but after spending 28 minutes on a conference call with him and a handful of other bloggers, the logic is screamingly obvious.  He’s really charming.

On Thursday, Philadunkia, DepressedFan, LibertyBallers, The 700 Level, ReclinerGM, and Sixers4Guidos took part in a conference call with Rod Thorn.  Thorn was generous with his time and his knowledge and everybody walked away a little smarter than when they dialed in.

Annotated Q’s and A’s after the J.

Brian from DepressedFan: Any plan to offer extensions to Thad Young, Spencer Hawes or Jason Smith prior to the November 1st deadline?

(Hopefully the answers are no, no and no. None of these players managed to produce a single win last season, and cumulatively they produced negative 3.03 dubyas.  Losing this trio would be addition by subtraction, or given their win scores, just plain subtraction by subtraction.)

Thorn: We’ve had some preliminary discussions with some of those guys. As of right now, as I’m sure most of you know, the collective bargaining agreement runs out after this season, and there’s much speculation about what the new rules might be, so I don’t think you’ll see as many players signed as normal. A player like Durant, a guy who’s recognized as a great player, you’ll see signed, and I’m sure there’ll be three or four others. We have had some preliminary discussions, we’ll see where they go and go from there. We will have the right of first refusal on these players if in fact we do not come to an agreement, but time will tell.*

(*Good answer. He might just be being cagey, but it smelled like a no.)

Derrick from Liberty Ballers: With Young and Hawes in particular, what specifically in their game are you looking for as they become restricted free agents, what are you looking for them to improve upon?

Thorn: …Young is set for a real good year…

(This is almost certainly false.  He’s regressed each year in the League.)

He has improved his body, he’s gotten much stronger, his shot looks good…

(Unlikely, unless he means it comparatively.  Thad’s field goal percentage has dropped like a CDO each year he’s been in the NBA, hitting the nadir this past season with a 29.4 shooting percentage from 10-15 feet and a 29.0 shooting percentage from 16-23.)

…which I think is very key with Thad, his being able to make open jump shots. A couple years ago, he looked like he was really on the path to becoming an outstanding player, and then last year {he had} a little setback, didn’t have the kind of year I think he and the Sixers were hoping for. His attitude seems to be great, I’m just very impressed with what I see from him, and I think, he’s very flexible can play multiple positions, and I think you’ll see him on the court a lot this year*.

(*Damn.)

Spencer is obviously a different center from Samuel in that he is a passer, a good perimeter shooter, and a very easy guy to play with on the offensive end of the court.

(And produced negative wins while Dalembert produced over 10.)

Our players will really like playing with him. Samuel obviously was a better defender, so it is a different type center that we’ll have this year than we’ve had in the past seven to eight years here, but I think the other players on the team are going to enjoy playing with Hawes and I think the fans are going to like him to.*

(*Fans who are gluttons for punishment.)

Tom from Philadunkia.com:  A handful of teams right now are using advanced statistical tools to inform their player personnel decisions, famously the Nuggets, Celtics and Rockets.  Will the Sixers join them?*

(*Great question.)

Thorn:  I think virtually all the teams in the League now depend to some degree to statistical analysis. Now there are different programs that are out there, but everyone, virtually everyone, does it, including us.  It’s a tool to help you, and I think that the more information you have, the better off you are.  I know…they’ve used it in Philly, but we’ve used a different one in New Jersey.  It’s been very helpful to me over the past four or five years in Jersey when we’ve really started to use it* – hired a statistical analyst. I think you’re going to see more and more of it in professional sports.

(*The last four or five years, when the Nets have averaged 30 wins a season?  Something tells me he hasn’t been doing it right.)

Dannie from ReclinerGM:  When you left the Nets, what was it about the Sixers that intrigued you?  That made you want to come and take over our organization?*

(*The fact that they offered me a job.)

Thorn:  I think there’s some good personnel here.  I think there’s some good young players to work with. I think the Sixers, for whatever reason –not having been here it’s not up to me to say one way or the other– they underachieved last year and I think {they have} an opportunity to be much better.  Plus we got the second pick in the draft, and drafted a player in Evan Turner who should be a very good player*.

(*This is almost certainly true.  The rest is not.  Our players aren’t good, we didn’t underachieve last year {we just suck, there’s a difference}, and we will under no circumstances be “much better.”)

Derrick from Liberty BallersAre you concerned about the number of minutes Iguodala has logged this summer, and whether that could affect him throughout the season?*

(*We posted on this, and came to the firm conclusion maybe.)

Thorn:  I think that the summer has been such an exhilarating season for him, such a high for him in that he played such a significant role on a world championship team that most felt would not be a world championship team, that I think hell be coming into the year on a real high.  He feels great about himself.  I spoke to Coach K for a long time about Andre, he was very, very positive about (Iguodola).  I think that we’re not going to kill him in training camp, and you’ll see a player who just feels very good about himself and is a very good place mentally.

Ricky from Sixers4Guidos:  The team actually added to the payroll this summer by trading Dalembert.

Thorn:  The team took back not quite as much money as Dalembert made, but it was close.  Had the team kept Dalembert then obviously at the end of this year when his contract would have expired then there would have been a sizable under the cap opportunity*, but I think at the time when the team made the trade the team was looking to move in another direction as far as center went…

(*Thorn was clearly not too happy about this trade.  He didn’t say it directly, but he had a tone.  The fact that he disliked this trade is the most encouraging bit of information we bloggers extracted.)

…(The Sixers) got a young center in Steve Hawes who should be a good player for us and also picked up Noicioni, who can also help in our frontcourt.  Again that was done before I got here*, but I think it will end up helping the team, in particularly on the offensive end of the court.

(Further separating himself from a move that impressively managed to hurt the Sixers both this year and in the future.)

Tom from Philadunkia.com:  Now that you’ve had a chance to familiarize yourself with the team, do you plan to make some win now trades or do you plan to rebuild the team from the ground up?*

(*I probably wouldn’t have reprinted this question had I not asked it.  I was hoping to get a sense of whether he planned to do a quick rebuild (ala the early 00’s Nets) or attempt a complete infrastructure overhaul (ala the late 00’s Nets).  He didn’t really answer.)

Thorn: …Trades come when you least expect it … many times when you worked on some deal for weeks, they just don’t transpire for whatever reason…In the position that we’re in, if a deal can help us –maybe short term or maybe long term – than we’re always going to take a look at it.

Brian from DepressedFanWhat do you consider better value, Andre Iguodala for $56 million over the next four years, or Carmelo at $82 million over the next four?

Thorn:  They’re entirely different players.  Anthony is one of the best scorers in basketball…(Carmelo Anthony) is a great shooter, post up player, he’s a tremendous offensive player.  Iguodala is an all around player.  He doesn’t have the offensive ability that Anthony has to score, but he has a passing ability a rebounding ability and a defensive ability, so it’s like comparing apples to oranges*.

(*Both are fruits.  Iguodala has produced 65 wins in the past five seasons while Melo has produced 25.  I’ll take the apple.  FYI…Iggy is more apple-like…Not quite as tasty, but more versatile and less high maintenance.)

Andrew from The 700 Level:  What would be a realistic goal for the Sixers?  First-round of the playoffs?

Thorn: We want to make the playoffs.  We want to do everything we can to get back into the playoffs and make a connection with our fans.  I think that last year was such a down year for this franchise… that its left a bad taste in a lot of peoples mouths. We’ve made a bunch of changes…(but) we’re not going to dismantle the team and start all over.  We want to bring our young kids along and we want to sprinkle some vets in and be as competitive as we can.

***

Because we’re running a little long here, I’m just going to go over a few of the more interesting/encouraging/troubling Thorn comments.

  • In response to a question from Derrick of Liberty Ballers regarding the possibility that Iguodala will be too old to produce by the time the young core is ready to compete, Thorn said that most guys peak between 28 and 32.  This is complete balderdash, but of a conventional sort.  Most guys peak at 24, and by their age 32 season they are, on average, 46 percent as productive as they were at their peak.  Most NBA teams though allocate minutes as though their players peaked in their late 20’s, and Thorn apparently shares this (false) assumption.
  • In response to a question by Jamie at ReclinerGM regarding strengths and weaknesses, Thorn, in an indirect way, identified the frontcourt as a weakness.  Bingo.  We’ve argued in a past post that we might have the least productive frontcourt in NBA history, and it’s nice that the guy who’s charged with fixing the problem recognizes that it is – in fact – a problem.
  • Thorn responded to a question for Brian at DepressedFan on Evan Turner that his Nets scouts loved Turner, they would have considered him at three had he still been on the board, and when it comes to personnel decisions, the buck always stops with him.
  • Thorn finished up by telling everybody on the line that he values shooting for its rarity, guys who know how to play over guys with measurements, likes kids who want to get better, and that the vast majority of his decisions have to be good ones.

Thanks for playing!


 
 
 

2 Responses to “THORN ON THE HORN”

  1. Labradford Smtih
    20. September 2010 at 16:18

    Guys like Thorn are part of the recycling process that happens with coaches and front office guys. Owners will keep hiring the same faces even though they’ve never put together a champion. They refuse to hire new people outside the box with fresh ideas. Why does Colangelo have a job? He gets so much credit for “picking” the best NBA players that wanted to play anyway to win gold in 2008 and 2010, but to me he is as worthless as Thorn; both with reputations bigger than their accomplishments.

  2. Labradford Smtih
    20. September 2010 at 16:24

    WoW, great to see that you use Wins Produced to evaluate players. I will have to favorite you and check out your posts.

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