Stefanski has his say

Sixers GM Ed Stefanski introduced Elton Brand to Philadelphia in July. An injury ended Brand's first season with the team, but Stefanski doesn't consider the acquisition a mistake.
Sixers GM Ed Stefanski introduced Elton Brand to Philadelphia in July. An injury ended Brand's first season with the team, but Stefanski doesn't consider the acquisition a mistake.
Posted: March 18, 2009

If you didn't notice that the 76ers' record keeps skipping in basically the same place, don't worry. A lot of people have tuned them out.

The Sixers are pretty much where they've been all season (which, come to think of it, is pretty much where they were at this point last year) - hovering around .500, moving forward, falling back, but always playing for thin home crowds.

President and general manager Ed Stefanski talked about all that, about the job he's done, the job Mo Cheeks lost, and the job Elton Brand never got around to doing. Distilled further: He discussed how he plans to make the franchise relevant again.

The season hasn't exactly gone as planned, has it?

Elton getting hurt and replacing Mo, those were big changes. I'm not happy with the record. You are what your record is. It doesn't matter who you put out there. We feel we have the talent to play better and more consistent than we have.

We're not a good free-throw-shooting team. And it's no secret we're not a good three-point shooting team. That usually spells disaster. We have to do better.

You said you are what your record is. Doesn't the same principle apply to the players? If they can't shoot threes, they're not suddenly going to become bombers. Don't you have to change the roster to fix deficiencies?

You do it two ways. We're young. As we get older, the young guys will get better. They'll work on their shots. We like our young nucleus. And we'll tweak at other spots.

Brand was one of the tweaks you made in the off-season. Would you make that same move again?

The majority of people around here were for it. Has he been injured often in the last few years? Yes. But is he injury-prone? No. That's a freak accident to come down on your shoulder. We're anxious to see what happens when we put him back in the lineup. We don't feel it was a mistake.

Before he went down, did you ever consider trading Brand?

No. That never happened.

Why do you think Andre Iguodala started playing better once Brand was out of the lineup?

Iguodala got off to a slow start. But it wasn't because we put him at two or three. Getting to know each other is important. People want to point fingers at Elton, but Elton wasn't around when we didn't play well after the break.

So it's possible Iguodala will move back to shooting guard when Brand returns?

It's something we have to look at. When Elton was healthy and Iguodala was at two, we were doing very well in plus-minuses. It was our bench that didn't hold leads. Depending on matchups, I could see him play two or three. I'm not saying he won't play two.

Why didn't you make a move at the trade deadline?

We really weren't close. Sam [Dalembert] made it public he asked to be traded. But the opportunity wasn't there. With Andre [Miller], there were no real basketball offers on the table. It was all financial considerations. We didn't want to do that. Andre is integral to making the playoffs, and we want to make a run.

What are the chances Miller will be back next year?

I'd like us to come to an agreement. But we won't know until we see the market. It's up to Andre, too. He's totally unrestricted. We can't just match another offer from another team and keep his rights.

You mentioned the record bugs you. But if it's about wins and losses, was firing Cheeks necessary? Has it made a difference?

Since Tony [DiLeo] took over, we've been in every game right until the bitter end. We've been competitive. But we're still not over the hump.

After Cheeks was fired he said he wanted to remain with the organization in some capacity. (Then he declined to appear at the final Spectrum game.) Will that happen?

We have talked. Mo doesn't think the timing is great to come back right now. It's too soon.

Cheeks was obviously a fan favorite, and you aren't exactly filling the building right now. But 'Nova does. I know it's not the same, but are you worried about fans and attendance?

'Nova has had a great fan base forever. 'Nova has always been the envy of the Big Five. I'm not surprised they fill the Wachovia. We have a core of fans. But we need to win more games. Then everyone will be thoroughly entertained.

When you were hired, you said this is your dream job. Is it still? It hasn't been easy.

Nothing is easy. Sometimes you do well. Other times, not as well. It's still a dream job. I'm home. I'm working for the team I rooted for my whole life. I'm happy. I see myself as a caretaker for the fans.

In terms of public opinion, it doesn't hurt that you're from here. But how long do you think the Philly-guy pass lasts?

I don't think it lasts at all. I'm from this area. I know the fans because I'm one of them. I get a lot of support in the city, but people aren't happy when things don't go well. It's about wins and losses. We're all judged that way. We're all scrutinized. I'm the guy who gets scrutinized the most. That's OK. But the fans want passion, and I have plenty.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or

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