Yesterday, several media outlet’s announced that the Sixers had a high level of interest in landing former Grizzlies and Trail Blazers assistant GM Tom Penn to replace current GM Rod Thorn.
Thorn is entering the final year of his 3-year contract as president/GM and has entered “lame duck” status as it was announced earlier this month that the franchise is searching for his replacement. However, the deal he signed in August 2010 with then-chairman Ed Snider included a provision for Thorn to become a part-time consultant for 5 years after his contract expired.
According to the ESPN report, Penn has interviewed with the Sixers, and will meet again with team representatives today in New York City.
Currently Penn works as an NBA analyst on ESPN where he frequently discusses issues like the salary cap, the NBA Draft, trades, and collective bargaining issues. Most recently, Penn spent four seasons as assistant GM with the Trail Blazers where he worked hard to wipe away the image of Rasheed Wallace’s “Jail Blazers” and if it weren’t for several key injuries could’ve brought home the Larry O’Brien trophy during his tenure with the team.
In the 2009-10 season, Penn’s last with the team, star Brandon Roy missed extended time with the team in crucial moments, missing the majority of the playoffs. Greg Oden, who was the number one pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, only played in 21 games that season and hasn’t played a game since due to injury.
Many experts predicted the young Blazers team to be a future dynasty in the NBA, until injuries ultimately depleted their team and killed their title hopes.
Penn could very well face a similar situation in Philadelphia, where the team is stacked with young talent and with the right tactical moves and pieces in place could be in title conversation in the near-future.
However, the only way this can happen is if Penn is willing to roll the dice. As a GM, Thorn has time and time again taken the safest road and has only made minor moves and “safe” picks that haven’t made the Sixers drastically better or worse as team GM. Thorn’s time as GM will be remembered with the hiring of Coach Doug Collins, the drafting of Evan Turner with the number two pick in 2010, helping to pry team ownership away from the hands of Ed Snider, and the freeing up of salary for the future when he parted ways with Elton Brand and Lou Williams this off-season.
Not terrible moves, but not anything to be too thrilled about either. Andre Iguodala is still a Sixer, the team still lacks an elite big man and arguably hasn’t had one since the departure of Dikembe Mutombo, plus the team is now so stacked with youth that it’s starting to look more like an AAU team than a team vying for an NBA title.
Barring any major trade happening in 2012-13 before Thorn departs, Penn must do something to make the team exciting again and get fans to fill the seats to the level they did back when Allen Iverson took the court on a nightly basis. Collins is a great coach for the team who can really develop young talent, but the Sixers need a star and everyone in Philadelphia has known this since Andre Iguodala was called upon to be that man.
However you look at the situation, one thing is for sure that whoever steps in as the next Sixers GM will make or break the team’s chances for the future. Everything for the most parts seems to be heading in the right direction momentarily with new ownership, cap space for the first time in years, and a coach in place who has the team playing hard and really competing on a nightly basis. Sometimes change is for the best, and for the Sixers I hope their next GM is a David Bowie fan.