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Friday, February 17, 2006

Sixers Need a Direction

Those damn Sixers. As the sports calendar hits rock bottom this weekend, the local hoopsters squandered a chance to head into the All-Star break with some genuine momentum. After an exciting win over the defending world champion Spurs, they pulled their Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde act and got thumped by the lowly Chicago Bulls the very next night.

Instead of heading into the dead spot of the sports year with some hope, we’re slapped with the reality of a barren sports scene for the foreseeable future. The NBA, which just doesn’t hold fan interest around here anyway, takes four days off for an All-Star weekend that gets more overblown and less interesting by the year. The NHL, with it’s never-ending season, is in Olympic limbo, and the fact that pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training does nothing for most people – and I’m looking forward to the Phillies this year. Worst of all, NFL fans are going through the early stages of withdrawal as meaningful football now lies about 6 ½ months away. Even the oasis of March Madness is weeks away.

So, we’re left to ponder the future of the Sixers. While the negativity that surrounds this team is absurd – Daily News Live bashed the team the day after the win against the Spurs – it is time for a change. This team is built to win now, and for whatever reason, it can’t get the job done. That, despite what the geniuses in the media say, does not mean this team is doomed forever.

First of all, shock over inconsistency from a team on its fourth coach in three seasons is absurd. They also suffered the over-looked loss of Willie Green, who when he was finally unshackled from the bench, helped spur this team at the end of last season. This is when the pundits scoff. No one’s saying Willie Green is the answer, no pun on Allen Iverson intended, but he is part of it.

Before I sound like a Sixers’ apologist, I will say change is needed. If Billy King doesn’t come up with something by the trade deadline, I’m not sure he should see the offseason with this organization. His effort to build a team that can win now without sacrificing the future was laudable. It has also failed.

King needs to make a decision: try to actually win now or build for the future. Believe it or not, I’m advocating the former. Trading Iverson would be disastrous. If Webber is tradable, well . . . let’s face it, he’s not. And this notion of an untouchable young core of Samuel Dalembert, Kyle Korver, and Andre Iguodala is ridiculous.

I’ve heard King say there are restrictions on trading guys in the first year of contracts, and I don’t think Dalembert and Korver would bring enough in return anyway. If I’m wrong, I’d trade either one for a guy with a low-post, rebounding presence in a heartbeat. In fact, I might trade both for that guy. I’m not asking for a stud, I’m just looking for a guy who at least has to be defended on the post and is a proven rebounder. That leaves Iguodala.

A year ago, I would’ve been ok with trading Iverson and committing to building around Iguodala. He seemed to have all-star potential written all over him. Problem is, a year later he still does — and potential gets old fast. If he can be moved for a proven second-tier stud, I’d do it.

Of course, getting specific is meaningless as you never know who might bring what offers. But if none of this is possible, it’s time to trade Iverson. We will not get value, and the team will get worse. Yet, as long as it alleviates King’s aging excuse that the team is strapped by the salary cap, it’s worth it.

However, if King continues his unsuccessful balancing act with the present and the future, he must go.

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