Yesterday Philadunkia participated in a conference call with Ed Stefanski for blogs dedicated to the 76ers. First let us say that we are impressed and grateful that Ed gave us the chance to speak with via the phone. A large percentage of NBA teams still will not recognize and respect sports blogs for the great work they publish. So we say, “Thank you” to Ed and Sixers head PR man Michael Preston for their time yesterday.
The call itself last a little over thirty minutes and when we went back and listened to the tape Stefanski told us a number of things that most Sixers fans already know like Andre Iguodala is “willing and able” to play some point, that he didn’t trade Andre Miller at the dead line last year because “we didn’t get anything we thought was even worth discussing”, that “Elton Brand is absolutely 100%” and that he “expects to make the playoffs” this coming season.
Stefanski also dished out a fair amount of front office speak on the call which allowed him to circle some questions without really answering them. However, when we read between the lines on some of his quotes, we found that Stefanski responded to a good number of the questions with responses that actually provided insight into the thoughts, ideas and direction of the Sixers brain trust.
Now we went into this call with one single purpose and that was to get the answer as to why the 76ers did not / have not added a veteran back-court player who can score the ball to the roster. That has been a burning issue for us here at Philadunkia since Orlando threw us out of the 2009 NBA Playoffs. So we directed most of our questions for Stefanski at that story angle.
We pulled our story line quotes as well as some of the best questions from the other bloggers and posted them for you here today.
Again the fact that the Sixers have yet to add a veteran back-court player to this roster who can score and provide some depth behind Louis Williams, Jrue Holliday and Jason Kapono is ridiculous to us. And please just stop with the suggestions that Willie Green and Royal Ivey are legit NBA players who can actually help a team. They’re not, end of story. So here are Philadunkia’s questions with regard to that issue:
Philadunkia: Earlier in the summer in some of the quotes we read in the paper and online you mentioned that you might look to bring in a veteran back-court player to support the guys you already have and to provide some depth. Can you talk about why you decided not to go in that direction?
Stefanski : “The veteran guys we were looking at, we didn’t get totally excited about. A couple guys we looked to possibly make trades for, we weren’t able to secure them and then what we saw on the free agent market that was left, we were more comfortable going with Royal Ivey from the defensive standpoint that Eddie Jordan wanted. And now as we sit here in almost October, I am glad we didn’t because everyday we are in the gym we think Jrue Holliday gets better and better. I don’t want to throw total high expectations on the kid, he’s only nineteen and a rookie, but we think he’s going to be a real nice player.”
One of the guards we thought it would have made a lot of sense for the Sixers to sign this off-season was combo-guard and Philly native Ronald “Flip” Murray (pic at left). He can play either guard spot and shoots the ball well (44.7 % FG) which are both keys to a successful Princeton offense. Plus he could provide some veteran leadership. The rumor mill had Murray and the Sixers linked together as “talking” about a possible deal but from what were told it fell apart because Flip’s side wanted a two-year deal and the Sixers were only offering a one year contract. So we asked Stefanski about it…
Philadunkia: One of the names we heard bounced around and associated with the Sixers this summer was “Flip” Murray. Can you talk a little about if there was any truths to those rumors and what happened if there was?
Stefanski : “Yeah, we did talk to Flip’s people and they were looking for a sizable pay day, which I don’t blame them, Flip’s had a nice career. But at that time and where we were it didn’t make any sense. Now I don’t know where they are, since we took Carney, we bowed out of the other thing (Flip), but I don’t know where Murray is going to end up. But like a lot of guys, they are finding out that the market is not what it was a year ago.”
We were also prepared to ask Stefanski about Ramon Sessions another player we theorized could help the Sixers a great deal in 2009-10 when Derek from Real GM beat us to the punch and asked, “Was there any thought of going after Ramon Sessions?
Stefanski : “No. I think Ramon Sessions is a very good basketball player, but I didn’t think with the way our roster is right now and with the rookie we drafted Jrue Holliday, that would have been the best money spent at that position.”
The only other directions we liked for the Sixers to go in an effort to add scoring and depth in the back-court were to either sign Von Wafer or trade with Golden State for Marco Belinelli. But from the answers he had already given on the topic we felt like Stefanski has been satisfied with the back-court of Williams, Holliday and Kapono with help from Iguodala for a while now. Thus, he did not make any serious attempts to add a back-court player to the mix, let alone one of the guys that we really liked for the Sixers.
So we were debating about whether continue with our line of questions in this area when Stefanski got to talking about 2009 draft pick Jrue Holliday.
Stefanski : (on Jrue Holliday) “…think Jrue Holliday gets better and better. I don’t want to throw total high expectations on the kid, he’s only nineteen and a rookie, but we think he’s going to be a real nice player…We’re very high on the kid. Expectations will be high. How long it is going to take for him to figure it out, the pace of the game and all that, we’ll see. But he’s got the size, he’s over 6’4, he’s very strong and that’s what a lot of players are telling me, how strong he is when he finishes around the basket. His shot is better then we thought, it’s going to take some time to learn to get it off a little quicker. He handles it extremely well with both hands and the big thing I keep going back to he is a willing defender which as we all know coaches love guys that will go out there and defend. So if he goes out there and can defend and doesn’t turn the ball over, then there is no reason to think he can’t get some minutes this year.”
The Holliday thoughts may or may not have inspired this question from Brain of Depressed Fan, “Is in your mind or Coach Jordan’s mind if you can read it, is there an open competition for that second guard spot between Louis (Williams) and Jrue (Holliday)? Is there a chance that he (Holliday) could do well enough in camp that he comes into the season as the starter?”
Stefanski : “I don’t know that. I would say right now Eddie Jordan has not put him in that roll as a starter. I don’t see any reason that Louis and Jrue could not play together because Jrue can a cover either guard at either position and no question that Louis can play the one or the two, he’s already done that.”
And we believe that inside those two quotes on Holliday is the answer to our big question this summer for Stefanski. The Sixers didn’t add a veteran back-court player who can score to the roster because they believe Holliday will be ready for prime time sooner rather then later.
When the Sixers drafted Holliday, they initially thought they might have to acquire another guard in order to give Holliday a chance to adjust to the NBA game and that prompted the statement from Stefanski early this summer that he was going to look to add a veteran guard to the Sixers. However as the summer progressed and they watched Holliday play at the Orlando Pro Summer League, during workouts and in pick up games, the more they liked Holliday and realized that he should be ready for some major minutes as a rookie. That belief eliminated the need for the Sixers to pursuit the Murrays, Wafers, Sessions and Belinellis of the NBA world.
Let’s hope Stefanski, DiLeo and the rest of the 76ers front office are right and that Holliday can make major contributions in 2009-10, because if the kid from UCLA doesn’t come up big this year, we believe it will be long and frustrating season for Philly fans with regards to the Sixers back-court play.
Here’s the best of the rest from the conference call with Ed Stefanski:
Brain from Depressed Fan : What role do you see Willie Green playing for the Sixers this season?
Stefanski : “You know it’s interesting, every year, “Where’s Willie going to play?”, and Willie always seems to come out of camp doing a good job and getting minutes. I think one thing you look at and this is going to be up to the coach, with the coach’s two guard front versus a true point guard (and a shooting guard) will Willie get some minutes in that two guard front as a point guard. Will he play in the same backcourt as certain people? That will be interesting in camp to see where Willie’s niche is because he to me is a two guard, I’m not saying he isn’t, but he could with another guard in the back-court. I go back to when I was in Jersey and we ran this Kerry Kittles handled the ball a lot as well as Lucious Harris was our backup point guard when J-Kidd would go out of the game.
Philadunkia : Can you talk a little bit about what Jason Smith is going to bring to the court this year for the Sixers because there seem to be a lot of high expectations for him coming back of the injury.
Stefanski : “He’s a legit seven footer who is very athletic…He’s an extremely good shooter. He’s a tough kid who will bang with you. He got stronger and now weighs over 250. He took advantage of the injury to get his body in great shape and he’s stronger then he has ever been. The players like him because he can hit a jumper and he’s also a tough kid. From the players when I met with them, they all felt that Jason Smith has a lot of heart when he plays out there.”
The 700 Level :Do you follow any of the new technology? Do you look at guys on Twitter or Ustream or anything like that?
Stefanski : “No I do not look at anybody on Twitter. I do read Hoops Hype.com every day and I see the Twitters that go on there. I do know that Andre Iguodala is a Twitter-er; Louis Williams is and I will have a talk with all them before the season not to do something that’s detrimental to them or the team and could cause them to loose any of their money.”
Philadunkia : Are you worried about the length of time it will take the guys to adapt to the Princeton offense because it’s not traditionally known as the easiest offense to learn?
Stefanski : “I don’t think you have to go to Princeton to learn it. (Laughs) But I hear what you are saying it’s not the easiest I think Eddie will have to put (in) more and more as the season goes on. It’s definitely something you think about is how long it will take for them to adapt. I don’t there is any question we should get better in it as the season goes on and our efficiency should go up in the half court.”