The Philadelphia 76ers may not be on the level of the Boston Celtics, or even the Brooklyn Nets anymore. In fact, Sixers fans like myself may need to focus more on keeping ahead of the New York Knicks as the Celtics and Nets' biggest challengers. To that end, it was relieving that the Knicks didn't land Steve Nash as planned - yet they found a way to make up for it and the potential loss of Jeremy Lin anyway.
While 'Linsanity' could be in its final days on Broadway, the Knicks still got a Hall of Fame point guard to help fill the gap - or mentor Lin if he doesn't join the Houston Rockets. Jason Kidd reportedly came to terms with the Knicks on July 5, at the same time that Lin signed a four-year offer with the Rockets which the Knicks may or may not match.
The Knicks might have made a bigger splash by getting Nash, yet Kidd is actually an NBA champion - although he wasn't one until 13 months ago. Yet the Dallas Mavericks have been cursed since winning that long awaited title, as they haven't landed Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, lost Jason Terry to the Celtics and have now lost both Kidd and Tyson Chandler to the Knicks.
Another Southwest Division team may wind up taking something away from New York, however. Despite the phenomenon that was 'Linsanity,' Lin will take his act to the Rockets - and inspire endless Yao Ming comparisons - if the Knicks can't match the Rockets' four-year, $29 million deal. If they can do this, having both Kidd and Lin together will fire up the New York base, even with Kidd at 39 and Lin still uncertain as a long term contributor.
This would be the latest big splash for an Atlantic Division club, albeit not the kind that the Celtics and Nets have made. Meanwhile, the Sixers are stuck in traction and look more and more likely to be projected as a fourth place team next year.
The Atlantic was the worst division in the NBA this past season, which left things wide open for Philadelphia to take it. But the Sixers failed - at least in the regular season - and now their window of opportunity doesn't look too wide open in a much tougher Atlantic.
Of course, the Celtics could still lose Ray Allen to the Miami Heat, while the Nets have done absolutely nothing real yet and the Knicks rarely come out ahead with their big signings. The Sixers are undoubtedly big losers in free agency compared to these teams, but wins, playoff berths and playoff victories aren't secured in the offseason.
In any case, the Knicks cannot celebrate yet until they decide if 'Linsanity' is still worth the price or not. But with all the uncertainty around the rest of the team, and with the Celtics and Nets still looking stronger at the moment, will Kidd and Lin give it reason to celebrate anyway?
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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