Jubilation, relief, excitation, hope, and unadulterated glee spread all throughout the Delaware Valley in the hearts of Sixers’ fans everywhere when the NBA and the Players’ Association recently announced that they had reached a good faith agreement that would end the NBA lockout.
After all, the last time the NBA had a shortened season, the Sixers began a five year streak of consecutive playoff appearances including their only trip to the NBA Finals since 1983. Before then, they hadn’t reached the playoffs for seven straight seasons after the Barkley era.
Of course, this time around it’s much different. They are certainly contenders for a playoff spot. Unfortunately for them, that’s all that they will contend for – not for this year only – but for the foreseeable future. There’s no doubting the talent of the youth laden squad. There’s also no doubt that the Sixers are lacking a superstar and that Andre Iguodala or Elton Brand, wasn’t, isn’t, and won’t ever fulfill that role.
So, what is a front office to do?
Ed Stefanski broke the bank and in conjunction the franchise’s chance for elitism by awarding Iguodala and Brand crippling contracts that never came close reaching their values. Most likely, Brand, who is coming off a strong 2011-2012 campaign, isn’t going anywhere via trade or the new much ballyhooed amnesty rule.
True, the amnesty rule allows teams to release one totally disastrous contract, but the team would still have to pay the player. It just wouldn’t count against the salary cap. The bottom line is this: unless the Sixers (new ownership notwithstanding) turn into the Lakers and/or the Knicks, it’s highly unlikely they will use the new rule this year for Brand. Though, they had better consider using it next year when the free agent market will once again produce a strong crop of talent.
However, the writing is on the wall for the end of Iguodala’s time in Philadelphia. He, himself has all but said that he doesn’t expect to return and his early off-season actions, including missing the season ending meeting, proved just that (We’re not believing the recants and hollow words AI9 issued as the summer of 2011 wore on). The only reason that he hasn’t yet been shipped away was because the sale of the 76ers was on the verge of closing. But with the new ownership group in place now and Rod Thorn at the helm, it’s become crystal clear that AI9 won’t be in Philly through the year and may be gone before the Christmas Day tip off of the season.
Stefanski could never pull the trigger on any deal because he overvalued Iguodala and never accepted that his contract limited what his trade worth truly was. Hopefully Thorn sees the light clearly and knows that Iguodala is just impeding the progress of Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner. News flash: Turner was a second overall draft pick and – uh. – he ain’t going nowhere.
So what could the Sixers actually get for the least of the A.I’s to wear a 76ers uniform? The rumor that has and still makes the most sense is a deal to the Clippers for Kris Kaman. The Sixers would get a more than serviceable big man, while unloading Iguodala’s burden of a salary. The Clippers with Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Mo Williams, Iguodala and maybe even DeAndre Jordan would be an explosive combination and give L.A’s other franchise a little bit of showtime of their own.
If Iguodala does finally go, then the Sixers better make sure they sign Thaddeus Young. Young, who is a restricted free agent has been flip flopped from backup to starter and back again. Although he has stated that he wants to stay in Philadunkia nation, it wouldn’t be too unreasonable to think that Young could walk away. But, Thorn has said that he wants Young back and intends to see that it happens as long as any offer from another team remains reasonable.
The cold hard truth is that no matter what moves the Sixers make between now and Christmas day, they are still stuck in NBA purgatory. They will battle for a 6th 7th, or 8th seed and no more. They will be lucky to reach the 2nd round of the playoffs and will be no better than 3rd in the division. They could end up being 4th in the division depending on what the Nets do with Deron Williams and any possible big name pick ups.
Then, the long range question becomes whether or not the entire roster should be blown up? At first thought, starting from scratch would be the best way to go until the realization hits that smart financial and basketball decisions this year could propel the Sixers to be contenders for championship caliber superstars in the years to come.
With a strong young nucleus, the Sixers are just devoid of one thing – a game changer. That’s too bad because the Eastern Conference, which once was inferior to the West, now is full of superstars, many of which are housed in their own division.
All that may sound depressing to the Philly faithful, but with that reality foreknown, the Sixers will be a extremely entertaining team to watch. Under Doug Collins’ watch, they will hustle, compete, and give fans a great effort every night.
This season will be one that will be very intriguing; from what the team will actually look like at season’s start to finish and who will actually become the go to guy on a team full of role players.
Though, in the end, it’s just refreshing to talk basketball again. The NBA is back!
Let the games begin.