August 13, 2008
Because this is how the team is going to look, for a long, long time.
It isn't a bad outfit. It's a pretty solid one, in fact, and one that has a legitimate chance at the Eastern crown next season while boasting some nice young players who are still years away from their prime. But this is it.
With Andre Iguodala apparently set to sign a six-year, 80-million dollar contract (Henry Abbott says that it's a done deal, but some figures have yet to be worked out; Phil Jasner says it's not a done deal, and that some figures have yet to be worked out), the Philadelphia 76ers have completely and utterly committed to this roster, as presently constructed, for a good while.
This isn't a bad thing, really. And the team could still get lucky in moving some parts as the years drag along. And good for them, for following through and spending the money to bring a winner back to Philly. The Sixers are going to be a fun team to watch next season. For a little while, at least. Sometimes watching five different guys trying to shoot the same shot from three feet away from the basket gets a little tiring.
You'll have to excuse me. Burnout is real. I've been detailing these practices online for so long that it tends to enervate just as much as it invigorates. I should be applauding the 76ers for sticking to their guns, making sound moves both during the season and over the summer in order to grab more and more cap space, and putting together a team that has a chance to play into June.
And yet, the only thing I can think of is, "this team's cap situation will be so inflexible, that this will be the only thing I'll see out of Philadelphia for the next five years."
And they've yet to even play a game together.
I realize I'm a dour, dyspeptic sort, and that the overwhelming bulk of each of these post-signing reactions have involved me borderline chiding NBA GMs for paying too much. I know that going in, and these things still turn out like this. Cautious. Not quite dubious, but still on edge.
In reality, the 76ers have done everything right.
They didn't go overboard for Louis Williams (about five million a year) even though his age (22 in October) should have us drooling. They pulled in Elton Brand, motivated and in shape and one of the more underrated NBA players of the last 20 years. They kept Iggy. Hanging onto Andre Miller got them in the playoffs and made for more revenue. Thaddeus Young is awesome.
But it's that smack of "what if?" - and the way that it has gone far, far away in the wake of another summer full of great work - that's what's probably doing it. And I have the audacity to admonish fans for thinking endlessly about what the summer of 2010 could bring. What a pillock.
Here's the deal. The East is still wide-open. Any number of injuries could bring down the Celtics, the Pistons are working with a rookie coach and could be torn apart by next February by Dumars' hand. The Cavs are all over the place, Toronto is on the way up but is still a hip flexor away from 42 wins, while Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose still can't buy you a beer.
The Sixers have Elton Brand in his prime, Iggy, Andre Miller still contributing, Sam Dalembert, Young, parts, rotation, a coach that everyone likes, and who knows what could happen in the spring?
Sure, Miller and Brand stunk up the joint with the 2002-03 Clippers, but Andre was out of shape and uninspired during that contract year. Sure, 2008-09's a contract year as well, but he's grown a bit, right? Even if they let his contract expire, the team will still be over the cap next summer. The MLE is a possibility from here on out, but there's also the possibility that Ricky Davis kills it next season, and the Sixers overpay. Geez, I'm a glass half-full kind of guy, eh?
The team has options. Miller's giant expiring contract can bring something in, providing the conditions are right (as we've learned, though there are championship-level exceptions, those expiring deals usually just die with a whimper more times than not), Young and Williams will continue to improve and contribute on rather cheap deals, and we haven't heard anything out of Sixer camp about refusing to pay the luxury tax. We wouldn't blame them for not wanting to, especially after the largesse of the Billy King regime, but it's worth noting.
That said, these are your Sixers, for better or worse. They'll be better, no doubt, but are they "championship"-better? Apologies, but that's still the way I work. High risk, potentially legendary reward. That's what you get for growing up in Chicago during Jordan's reign, and understanding that the second round just isn't anything worth yelling about.
So, "yes" is the answer. I know that, for sure. It's just that the Sixers are in an "everything has to go right" scenario to get that title.
We know that the team deserves it, especially Elton, as do their front office, ownership, fan base, coaching staff ... pretty much everyone but Kareem Rush (go ahead, shoot another line-drive jumper, pretend that you're a threat, fool another GM) does.
Forget that, even Kareem deserves it. This is a team worth rooting for, and a team worth fretting about if you're an opponent, especially if Young and Williams continue to improve as expected.
So let's ignore that extra 1.5-million a year that Iggy is making over Luol Deng. Let's ignore the add-ons ("Many of the details of the contract are still to be worked out, sources say, including incentive clauses that could increase the value of the deal beyond a base compensation of $80 million.") that Henry is detailing. Let's ignore that Elton will be 34 in 2012-13 and that he'll make 18.1 million. Let's ignore those horrid uniforms that, entering their 11th year, still don't work for anyone.
Let's enjoy the team, no matter how long we're stuck with it. Because we're stuck with it, no matter how much we enjoy it.