Searching for a Sixer Fixer
Sunday in Boston, Rajon Rondo scored 29 points, hauled in 18 rebounds and handed out 13 assists in a playoff performance that must have had Red Auerbach lighting up a victory cigar in the Great Beyond. It was a remarkable individual show, by the type of player who can’t be found anywhere on the Sixers’ roster. For all of its ridiculously high-priced contracts (Hello, Jason Kapono), the home team has no one capable of that kind of post-season outing, even though Rondo makes a reasonable (by NBA standards, at least) $11 million a year. (Ladies and gentlemen, Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala.) [SIGNUP]
As GM Ed Stefanski goes about the process of trying to find someone willing to coach the Sixers next season, he must understand that even if he is able to lure Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers away from their teams — or somehow combine them into one ring-laden coach — the team he/they will be coaching has little chance of being anything more than first-round fodder in the fetid, bottom-heavy Eastern Conference.
So far, we have learned that Mark Jackson, who has exactly zero NBA coaching wins, doesn’t want to coach in Philadelphia. Avery Johnson would rather be in New Orleans or even Atlanta, where the heartless Hawks have embarrassed themselves now twice against the Magic. None of the league’s established bosses wants to trade his position for a shot at rehabilitating Sixers. That leaves a collection of assistants and washed-up Doug Collins, who was canned in Chicago, Detroit and Washington and owns a gaudy .395 playoff winning percentage. Don’t forget Bill Laimbeer, old McFilthy (or was he McNasty?), who is trying to parlay that WNBA success of his into an NBA coaching job. Maybe Sam Mitchell will take the gig. And there’s always Larry Brown, who must be itching to make a move after spending an eternity — or two seasons — in Charlotte.
It doesn’t matter whom the Sixers hire, because their roster is a mess. The team had one of the ugliest salary cap profiles in the league this year, and it’s even worse next season, since the threshold will be even lower — and its salary commitment is even higher. Giving Andre Iguodala a six-year, $80 million deal was a colossal blunder. One year after Elton Brand started his stagger though the league in red-white-and-blue, an NBA GM with whom I spoke questioned why the Sixers would give Brand so much money to be a low-post scorer when he was clearly a “pick and pop” type.
Without a significant roster overhaul, the Sixers are trapped in a riptide from which they can’t help to escape. About the only thing going for them right now is the expiring contract of Samuel Dalembert, who must be the most miserable multimillionaire in the country. The Sixers couldn’t even get it together enough to finish in the league’s bottom five, so they could grab one of the top talents in what is essentially a five-man (John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson, DeMarcus Cousins) draft. Hope those back-to-back wins over Milwaukee and Atlanta were worth it, since they helped the Sixers finish ahead of Washington and Golden State.
Simply put, the search for a new coach, one who will act like a grown-up around a team in need of a strap to its collective backside, is a small step forward. The Sixers won’t be any good until their roster is overhauled, and that means getting rid of deadwood like Kapono, finding a legitimate center and a two guard who belongs in an NBA starting lineup. More importantly, there must be a commitment from the top to make the team a viable contender, rather than one that merely tries to assuage fans by throwing around money. When Pat Croce was team president, he did everything he could to make the team a winner. Stefanski has rededicated himself to that, but he is so far behind it may be impossible to catch up. The Sixers are broken, and one off-season won’t fix them.
It’s time to stop publicity stunts like re-signing Allen Iverson and make some hard decisions. Is it possible to get rid of Dalembert? If so, get a legitimate NBA player in return. Can Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights be solid contributors to a winning team? If not, jettison them. Will Brand ever be healthy enough to be the force Stefanski figured he would be? If not, buy him out. The Sixers must stop looking for stopgaps and half-hearted repair jobs and get aggressive. Get smart. Otherwise, don’t expect anybody to come to the games. The time is now. The clock is ticking.
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* Was that Eldrick Woods or Al Czervik at The Tournament Players Championship Sunday? Woods’ play was shaky, so all of a sudden he says, “Oh, my disc; it’s bulging.”
* Just when we thought Cole Hamels was back, after Tuesday night’s gem, he goes just five innings Sunday against the Braves. The good news is that he should be tack-sharp next start, since he’s now alternating super starts with clunkers.
* The Flyers aren’t officially finished, but since only two NHL teams have every come back to win a series after being down 3-0, they’re due for Last Rites any minute. They showed grit. What they need now are speed and skill.