John Smallwood | Kobe does Sixers a favor by leaving them off his list

Posted: June 21, 2007

THE FORTUNATE thing for Sixers president and

general manager Billy King is that disgruntled Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has apparently narrowed his desired destinations to Chicago, New York or Phoenix.

If he can badmouth the Lakers into trading him, it would fit Bryant's ego to want to bring a championship to the Bulls for the first

time since Michael Jordan, or to finally end New York City's three-decadelong NBA title drought.

Phoenix? Heck, if Bryant is really serious about never compromising "winning" and wanting his best chance at another NBA ring, the chance to play with two-time MVP Steve Nash and the ultra-

exciting Suns should be at the top of his wish list.

But luckily for King, Bryant hasn't expressed any covert interest in wanting to revive the fate of his hometown team.

Because if the read-between-the-lines message was that Bryant, who won't turn 29 until August, wanted to come to the Sixers, King would be obligated to scrap whatever rebuilding plans he has made and figure out how to get Bryant.

Despite his divalike qualities, his penchant to occasionally play a bit selfishly and the fact that a significant portion of the Sixers' fan base can't stand him, Bryant is still one of the top five players in the world and one of the few that every team, except the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, should do just about anything to acquire.

With the Sixers apparently not on Bryant's short list, King doesn't have to worry about what combination of Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Samuel Dalembert and three first-round draft picks he'd have to offer for the Lakers to just say, "No, thank you."

Now King and his staff can keep preparing for next week's draft, figuring out how to improve the long-term competitiveness of this franchise.

With the Sixers seemingly off Bryant's radar, there is no X-factor contingency for King.

Except for Bryant, there is no player currently listed as "being available" who is worth the Sixers' mortgaging the future in a gamble for an immediate payoff.

Not Phoenix swingman Shawn Marion. Not Indiana big man Jermaine O'Neal. Not even Minnesota's former MVP, Kevin Garnett.

It's not that any of those

All-Star players wouldn't immediately become the Sixers' best player. It's that the price they would have to pay in current talent and draft picks would make acquiring one of those players moot.

If this were the Sixers of a year ago, when Allen Iverson was still the main cog in the machine, then giving up a rising talent like Iguodala and draft picks to get an established star would make sense.

Iverson and Garnett would give you a puncher's chance at a title, but with Iverson now in Denver, the Sixers gutting their core to bring in an aging star would just put them back in the same situation they were with Iverson for the past 5 years - nice engine, but too bad you don't have the rest of the car to go with it.

The Sixers have learned the hard way that quick fixes only lead to problems that have to again be repaired by a different quick fix. The madness stopped when they finally let go of Iverson and decided to undertake a proper rebuilding job.

Things are lining up.

With the draft picks and

salary-cap relief it got from

trading Iverson, management is finally in a position to correct some of the grievous errors it made since trying to turn the 2001 NBA Finals appearance

into a string of championship runs.

Next Thursday's draft is only the first phase.

The end of the 2007-08 season, however, will be just as important because that's when the money owed to Chris Webber will come off the salary cap, and the Sixers will be free to be active in free agency.

Bryant, who is still owed $88 million, is the trade topic that would be worth surrendering that flexibility.

It's not that the Sixers should not explore the possibility of making trades going into the draft. They just have to keep the long-term goal.

If some team wants to give up a rising star-level player who is under 25 years old, King and his staff should explore that.

If they can come up with a package that would get them higher in the draft than the 12th pick, they should look at that, too.

There is only one player on the trade-rumor mill who would be worth the Sixers' scrapping everything they've positioned themselves for since trading Iverson.

Fortunately for King's peace of mind, Bryant apparently is not interested in coming back to Philadelphia. *

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