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I Told Them So: Sixers Still Struggling No Matter Who Coaches Team
PHILADELPHIA — When the Philadelphia 76ers hired native son Maurice Cheeks in May of 2005 to become their fifth head coach in the last three seasons, I distinctly remember writing a column for the Philadelphia Sunday Sun that focused, not so much on Cheeks’ hiring, but on many of the comments that general manager, Billy King and chairman, Ed Snider, made that day and my personal feelings on the entire situation – including, speculating on what would happen if things started to go sour in South Philly.
Well, the Sixers’ season has pretty much been one big sour apple and now they are fighting for their lives to earn the eighth and final spot for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
However, whether they make the playoffs – and suffer what will most likely be a first-round sweep at the hands of the Detroit Pistons – it is painstakingly clear that the Sixers have some big problems.
First and foremost, the Sixers have absolutely no inside presence. Age and injuries have reduced power forward, Chris Webber to a jump-shooting shell of his former self. Samuel Dalembert isn’t worth half of the money he and his agent robbed the Sixers for this past offseason and the team’s best frontcourt player right now, Steven Hunter, doesn’t even start although he clearly has been a better fit in the middles for the Sixers.
And don’t let me get started on the supposed reasons why former head coach, Jim O’Brien got fired – a lack of developing the team’s younger players and a lack of commitment on defense.
“In the interview process with Jim, there were a lot of things that we talked about,” King said last May. “But in watching the season, evaluating our young players’ development and evaluating our style of play, it wasn’t something I was comfortable with. In looking at the development of some of them, yeah, I wasn’t pleased. Some of the criteria on our defense wasn’t there.”
Hey Billy, guess what? This team still plays atrocious defense and several of the team’s younger players have yet to develop. As a matter of fact, I think it’s always going to be hard to develop when the team’s best young player, Andre Iguoadala, gets a whopping eight shots per contest. Ditto for Kyle Korver who has actually gone backwards after his eye-opening rookie season a couple of years ago.
Now I have heard from several sources that many of the team’s players have not only tuned Cheeks out, but assistants, Henry Bibby and Moses Malone as well. All I can say is it’s a sad day when young players don’t want to hear anything from either of these three former players – especially Malone who could probably still school every big man on the Sixers’ roster.
However, according to King and Snider last summer, if any players has a problem with Cheeks, he will quickly be on his way out of Philadelphia.
“If players have problems with Mo Cheeks … then there’s got to be something wrong with those players,” King said.
“We do not want to change coaches [again],” Snider said. “We’ve seen enough coaches.”
Even Iverson, who has openly feuded with several of his coaches in the past, couldn’t have been happier with Cheeks’ arrival in the “City of Brotherly Love.”
“If you got a problem with Mo Cheeks, there must be something wrong with you,” Iverson said. “I got all these fingers and no rings on them. I’m willing to do anything to win a championship. I’ll run through a wall if Mo tells me to.”
“Mo has played this game here in Philadelphia, won a championship here in Philadelphia, understands players, understands defenses, understands the way I think we want to play,” King said. “Mo is family. Mo bleeds 76ers. He bleeds Philadelphia.”
All feel-good quotes aside, it is obvious the Sixers need to make several offseason moves to try and get this once proud franchise back on the track to respectability.
The Sixers’ last seven losses have been by an average of 13.7 points and Cheeks honestly pointed out that, “some guys didn’t come ready to play” in the team’s recent 33-point embarrassment at Cleveland.
Following that fiasco, King then went on the major Philadelphia sports talk radio station and said: “I noticed some guys aren’t putting out the effort. It will be addressed — trust me.” King also said he has “never seen anything like this in all my years of basketball.”
King can say whatever wants from his lofty perch, the truth is, he has played a major part in the team’s decline. Yes, I think he made each move for the betterment of the franchise, but the truth is, several of his moves have been questionable at best – and some – downright idiotic.
Now, the mess they are in can only be fixed one way – by cleaning house.
To that end, I have once again decided to help King out with several transactions that should help get the Sixers back on the right track before the end of the decade.
Number one, the Sixers need to look to move Allen Iverson. It’s not that I don’t like A.I., it’s just that I believe his few remaining years would be better served playing for a legitimate contender. The Sixers would obviously need a starting point guard in return, not to mention another frontcourt player. Can you say Shaun Livingston and Chris Kaman?
Okay, don’t like that one? How about Iverson for Earl Boykins, and Nene or Francisco Elson? Whatever the case, the Sixers need to move Iverson and get someone with a huge upside in return. This is the Sixers most important move and one they can’t afford to blow – or not make.
Next, the Sixers need to try to move Chris Webber. The man isn’t getting any younger – or better – for that matter. Webber’s huge contract may make him almost impossible to trade, but I say try mightily anyway. The Sixers would obviously need another frontcourt player in return, preferably someone less than 25-years-old with plenty of potential.
Finally the Sixers need to rid themselves of the enormous contract that they gave to the underachieving Dalembert. Any able-bodied defensive specialist who can rebound consistently will suffice. I mean, it’s not like Dalembert has been setting Philly on fire since he signed his immense contract this past summer.
Finally the Sixers need to acquire a couple of tough-nosed veterans who are good locker room leaders who can guide the team’s younger players in the right direction.
I mean, how bad can a lineup of say, Boykins, Willie Green, Andre Iguoadala, Steven Hunter and Nene or Elson be anyway? It’s not like the team is going to be any worse than they are right now. Boykins is a bonafide scorer who also would make Iguoadala, Green and Kyle Korver better players with his ability to penetrate and dish.
Finally the Sixers need to draft a young big man in this summer’s upcoming draft. I’m not talking about a one-hit wonder either. They need to do their homework and find a sleeper who can develop into a real frontcourt NBA player.
Now, I’ve offered my services to Snider and the Sixers in columns many times before – and I have to say that, had they taken my advice – they wouldn’t be in the sad shape that they are currently mired in.
Either Snider doesn’t read my column or he actually believes that Billy King has a clue. Whatever the case, the Sixers had better get their homework done right this offseason or they could be looking at a five-year detention.