BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
The Philadelphia 76ers tried this offseason, but their attempts at Eastern Conference relevance ultimately were fruitless. When the 76ers acquired center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers many thought the Sixers would win at least 50 games and challenge for the Atlantic Division crown. However, here we sit just barely past the halfway point of the season fighting for the eighth seed, and the right to be massacred by the Miami Heat.
Not what Sixer fans envisioned when the season commenced, nevertheless 21 – 27 is where Philly rests and irrelevant is what they are.
Bynum was no doubt the straw that stirred the 76ers nectar of championship delusion, and without the big fella Philly is nothing more than a group of athletic non-clutch sporadically effort filled ballers. No more no less. So it should not surprise anyone that there record is so pedestrian.
Bynum should not have been expected to partake in more than 50 games this season, considering the Plainsboro, New Jersey native has played in an average of 56 games in his seven year career. The hope was with the center in the lineup Philly would win anywhere between 65 to 70 percent of their games, which would mean winning about 33 of those 50 games. If Philly could remain around .500 without the oft-injured center, thus 16 – 16, then 50 wins was very much attainable.
Short of LeBron James and a healthy Dwight Howard, no one player is a championship island. In order to compete for a title Philly needed/needs more than “Bad Afro Bynum”. Even with the center, Philly was no better than fourth in the East, behind the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, and Chicago Bulls. The 76ers effort in acquiring the center, while audacious, was tainted.
As easy as it was to get excited about the addition of the former Laker it is just as easy to become nauseous with the Sixers’ other acquisitions. The other pieces added to this roster were less than impressive. Only former glue eaters and Spike Eskin thought the addition of former first overall selection Kwame Brown was inconsequential. The perennial pine rider is synonymous with underachievement and aloofness on a good day, and can evoke an obscenity laced tirade from a nun on a bad day.
Simply put winning and Kwame “Eddie Mush” Brown do not go together.
The center has been a successful reminder of just how painfully inapt the Sixers front office has been in securing talent on this roster. From guard Evan Turner to the aforementioned Bynum it seems this current regime just “can’t get right”, even when aided by the most splendid of circumstances.
When the 76ers acquired the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft most thought the Ohio State product was the right selection for Philly. However, in basketball (as in life) what is right does not always mean what is best.
This is where a true talent evaluator would separate himself from the pack, say a Jerry West. It is a disregard for the obvious that enables Jerry West to select a tough nosed point guard from a tiny southern school and trade an established big man for a high school phenom. Talent is what incarcerates the mind into believing trading two first picks for a frail forward from Hamburg, Arkansas is brilliant.
Talent is rarely obvious; it is undisclosed and understated at times, but always undeniable. Conversely, average is obvious and blatant, it is where mediocrity is often excused and applauded. The 76er brass has mastered the art of mediocrity. Current General Manager Tony Dileo, who has resided in the 76ers’ scouting department for well over 20 years may have the requisite desire to win but are voided of the natural talent necessary for this effectuation.
This leads us back to the 2010 NBA Draft. Sacramento Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins and Utah Jazz forward Derek Favors would have been the riskier selections for Philly in the 2010 draft, but would have provided the bigger reward. Both players had yet to reach their maximum potential, while Turner had peaked. Most talent evaluators felt the former Buckeye garnered very little risk. Turner did everything well, but did nothing great. The 76ers decided to roll with Turner and in return have received little reward in the form of wins. Making matters worse the lusterless guard, has little to no trade value.
Oddly enough Cousins for all his strife in Sacramento would still command a high ransom should the center ever be made available.
It is this type of thinking that continues to plague the 76ers. Consider that the Miami Heat have been desperate for an inside presence since signing the big three, yet they passed on Brown
The Golden State Warriors signed Brown to a one year deal last season to provide frontcourt depth. The center played in nine games and the Warriors finished 20 games below .500. Brown’s contract expired at season’s end and Golden State replaced Brown with undersized but talented former Purdue Boilermaker Carl Landry. The new Warriors front office, advised by Jerry West, identified the talent and good locker-room presence in Landry.
The undersized center has played in almost six times more games and as a result the Warriors currently sit 11 games above .500.
Landry has been a major fixture on two playoff teams and is currently averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per. The forward was available when the 76ers signed Brown.
Those who condoned the Brown signing said the former Washington Wizard would have no effect on the roster, and he was just a back-up center, which may have been what the 76er front office was thinking when they signed Brown. The center was an example of just another move excused by those incapable of identifying talent. It is not Kwame’s fault almost every team he has played for fails to make the playoffs and look fantastically abysmal while doing so. It is also not a coincidence that when building a losing franchise Brown is viewed as a necessary foundation.
Tragically and predictably few have associated the Sixers’ shortcoming with the front office and scouting department.
Things may have been different in Philly if Bynum had played in those 50 games, but since when do the unprepared prosper.
Now the same minds who have failed to deliver a championship roster since 1983 will be entrusted yet again with the future of this once gallant franchise.
The 76ers will enter next season roughly $10 million dollars under the salary cap, and armed with four expiring deals. The future should be bright and confidence levels should be high, after all the likes of point guard Chris Paul, forwards Josh Smith along with David West, and center Dwight Howard all will be unattached this summer.
Alas this is Philadelphia. This is where second best in the form of Andrew Bynum instead of Dwight Howard is congratulated and the likes of “Eddie Mush” aka Kwame Brown are excused.
Alas this is the 76ers, a team where Dana Barros and Jrue Holiday are mistaken for All-Stars despite going unaccounted for in the most critical of moments.
There was a time when our beloved 76ers were expected to at the very least compete for an NBA title. In the eighties the Sixers won at least 64 percent of their games for seven straight seasons. In those days Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Andrew Toney walked through those doors, because championships were all that mattered.
There is a difference between not winning and not knowing how to win. The Sixers in those days did not win, while today they simply don’t know how to win.