Stephen A. Smith: Don't overlook Luukko's liability for 76ers

Posted: March 11, 2010

The amazing thing about the 76ers these days is not that they are pathetic, embarrassing, and downright laughable. It's that as the losses mount, while faith in them plummets by the second, the players don't appear to have a problem with the situation at all.

There's no other explanation for what transpired last night against the Charlotte Bobcats at the half-filled Wachovia Center, and against a coach, Larry Brown, who took this team to the NBA Finals in 2001. The Sixers were down by 85-58 at the end of three quarters to a .500 team, clearly having given up - and alarmingly looking like a team that is trying to get coach Eddie Jordan fired.

Although that may happen - and it will be a miracle if he's here past this weekend - let's make sure we recognize that Jordan and general manager Ed Stefanski aren't the only ones who are responsible for this mess.

Make sure to include the man who essentially was responsible for hiring them both: Peter A. Luukko, the president and chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, the Sixers' parent company.

"Oh, absolutely," Luukko said during last night's game when asked if he should shoulder some responsibility for the team's dismal season: The Sixers are 23-41 after last night's 102-87 loss. "Of course, I own some accountability in all of this. We all do.

"Any time you're not living up to expectations, when you're having the kind of disappointing season we are having, there's no place to run or hide. And if you're about winning, you shouldn't want to hide. You've got to face the problem head-on, address what the real issues are - and be willing to do whatever it takes to fix the problem. And I do mean whatever it takes."

According to sources, Luukko has already told Stefanski he's in trouble, something Luukko refused to confirm or deny. And as reported in yesterday's Inquirer, the decision already has been made about Jordan, possibly so Stefanski can save himself.

There will be a new coach for the Sixers next season. The only question appears to be whether someone will replace Jordan by this weekend.

Jordan is done because of the team's record and because his much-heralded Princeton offense has produced putrid results with this group of players. Mainly, he is done because Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand - the so-called stars of this crew - have been anything but and essentially have let it be known that their subpar production is a direct result of Jordan's system. Not their skills.

Hours before the Sixers were unceremoniously thumped by the Bobcats, Iguodala reportedly was aloof and dismissive toward anything Jordan had to say about him, particularly in the aftermath of being benched for the final 15-plus minutes of Tuesday's loss to the Pacers. As for Brand, reading his quotes in The Inquirer after the loss to Indiana tells you all you need to know:

"We didn't utilize our mismatches, and they utilized theirs," Brand said. "Guys like Dahntay Jones and Brandon Rush [who scored 25 and 24 points, respectively] . . . I'm not guarding those guys."

What a teammate.

So it's bad enough the Sixers couldn't buy a legitimate low-post presence and rugged baller for $79.5 million in Brand two years ago. But evidently they couldn't purchase a loyal teammate, either.

When something like this happens, it's not just about the coach, the president, or the system. It's about a culture deteriorating before our eyes. When that happens, the leadership is just as responsible as anyone.

That includes the chairman, Ed Snider.

His understudy, Luukko, is perhaps one of the nicest people most of us would ever want to meet, a man as generous and cordial as they come, it appears. He also is a man who believes he knows his business - whatever it may be - better than anyone. But clearly he has a thing or two to prove when it comes to basketball.

Essentially, this same team was respectable with Stefanski's predecessor, Billy King. With coach Maurice Cheeks, it was moving forward, battling, fighting, and developing along the way. But Luukko made changes anyway.

Perhaps King and Cheeks both should be brought back - or at least receive a call of apology, from what we're seeing.

"We plan on evaluating everything and everyone at the end of the season," Luukko said. "Once we do that, whatever needs to be done . . . will be done. Whatever changes need to be made will be made."

"Under normal circumstances, you've got to be fiscally responsible along the way," Luukko added, alluding to the two seasons and $6 million left on Jordan's guaranteed deal. "But we're in the winning business, and we're not winning. So nothing else really needs to be said."


Contact columnist Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846.

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