Sixers 2012 Postscript: What Happens Next?
Have you ever been annoyed by a gnat to the point of sheer exasperation? Try as you might, your efforts to shoo it away are futile until one mighty lash permanently ends the battle for both you and the gnat.
Similarly, The Philadelphia 76ers buzzed the ears of the Boston Celtics for seven games. In the end however, Rajon Rondo and the rest of the Celtics dispatched the Sixers in the same way you might discard a bothersome bug.
The NBA playoff tournament is down to four and the local squad has a lot of work to do to ascend to this level of basketball. Of course the Memphis Grizzlies, a team I thought had the makings of a championship run, is also absent.
But this isn’t about the horrible prognostication I made a few weeks ago. This is about the Sixers postscript.
In a season which began promising enough, got murky in the middle and became downright troublesome before the playoffs, the Sixers offered their fans about a months worth of thrills. But what's next?
There is no question this basketball team made some positive strides, but it’s fools gold to think they are a tweak or two away from the Eastern Conference Finals.
It's clear Evan Turner has talent, but it's just as clear head coach Doug Collins has issues with his game and/or his attitude. And because of the divide between coach and player, the Sixers still don't know what they have in the 2nd pick of the 2010 NBA Draft.
Will Turner be given the freedom to play the way he is most capable and comfortable? Will he be traded? Will Collins walk away citing the challenges of trying to coach players like Turner? And what will they do with André Iguodala?
For reasons unknown to me, Collins is comfortable with "Dré" as the floor leader and facilitator. But there are two problems with this notion: Iguodala doesn't have the game or basketball acumen to run a squad. That's why the Sixers struggle so mightily on the offensive end when they're forced to play 47 feet at a time.
I'm all for acquiring the most talent possible regardless of position, but there are four players on the Sixers’ roster (Iguodala, Turner, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams) with very similar games and non of them are stars. Plus, they have a fifth (Jodie Meeks) who is on the team to make long-range shots, but isn’t a prolific shooter.
Power forward Elton Brand can't play forever and center Spencer Hawes can't play often enough.
It is vital Collins and General Manager Rod Thorn approach this off-season aggressively. They must dismiss the notion this team is close to legitimate contention.
And while they won’t be able to fix every issue before the beginning of next season, there are three things they must do if they hope to seriously challenge the best teams in the east:
*Trade Iguodala and/or Holiday for some talented size- Think a Marreese Speights type but with a personality that won’t clash with the head coach—if that's even possible in today's NBA since Tim Duncan’s dogma is a dying breed.
*Make Turner the lead guard, primary ball-handler and facilitator.
*Offer Williams a fair contract and start him in the backcourt next to Turner, but prepare to let him walk should he demand big dollars.
In my view, those decisions gives the franchise it's best chance to move forward in a highly competitive Eastern Conference.
The Sixers ended the 2011-2012 campaign with a good vibe, but they must realize the Chicago Bulls only had a couple of healthy bodies and the Celtics are an aging, less than athletic group. Indiana and Miami aren’t going away; the Knicks and Magic both have some nice pieces and the Bulls will be back once Derrick Rose returns close to form.
Still, 13 playoff games is invaluable experience for this team and they provided the fans with some scintillating moments.
Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.