Mike Missanelli: The 76ers need to make a trade to compete for title

Celtics veteran Paul Pierce could provide a shooter capable of making the big shots a championship team needs.
Celtics veteran Paul Pierce could provide a shooter capable of making the big shots a championship team needs. (ELISE AMENDOLA / Associated Press)
Posted: February 12, 2012

Before your Philadelphia 76ers rattled off four wins in that recent killer span of six tough opponents, they were merely an interesting curiosity. Now, they are the talk of the NBA.

You can tell when a team has arrived. It's when the glitterati start filing in. In the last two weeks, celebrities sitting courtside at a Sixers game have included Will Smith (though the eminent Fresh Prince holed up in a suite after just one half of sitting with the people), actor Terrence Howard, and rapper Meek Mill. The jockocracy has also been represented in the persons of DeSean Jackson and Shady McCoy, and, the other night, Raul Ibanez. Even porn star and political candidate Mary Carey has attended a Sixers game.

When the Sixers play the good teams in this league, the Wells Fargo Center has actually become a cool place to be. With every Sixers win against these good teams, the mind wonders. Before our eyes, the Sixers have become a contender. They have created a window of opportunity that is cracked open a bit. And the only question is whether it would now be prudent to attempt to squeeze another superstar player through that crack in order to go all in for a championship.

Oh, don't chuckle, basketball-breath.

The 2012 version of the NBA is like a fragmenting hard drive. It's all over the place. The lockout, the late start, and the four-games-in-five-nights schedules, with back-to-backs all over the joint, has made it impossible to tell who's good.

Even the best team in the league - by all accounts, and with much disdain, the Miami Heat - shows a cracked foundation. Some nights, the Heat dominate. Other nights, they go through the motions and lose to the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Chicago Bulls are a nice team, but they aren't any better in personnel this season, and this was a team that lost four straight to the Heat in the playoffs last season.

And is there really anybody who scares you that much in the Western Conference? The Mavericks aren't the same team that won the NBA title last season. With all due respect to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers don't look anywhere near championship caliber. And at the end of the day, the Oklahoma City Thunder still have only two players.

There are two ways to go here.

One is to ponder whether the Sixers, in their current form, can actually win something. It is a team without a superstar, where the sum is far greater than its individual parts, coached brilliantly by an all-world competitor in Doug Collins.

But is it realistic to think that a team like this - without a go-to fourth-quarter shotmaker - can wind up with an NBA championship trophy?

In the last several seasons, there is one team that gives us perspective: the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons.

The Pistons won an NBA title when not one player was a true superstar, but all five players filled synergistic roles: Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton in the backcourt, with Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, Corliss Williamson, Mehmet Okur and Rasheed Wallace up front. The blend was smoothed together by Larry Brown, who had a penchant for squeezing sweet nectar from average-looking fruit.

Brown's philosophy was to bring stability through defense - if you limited the opposition's scoring, you would be in every game. And in that way, he was the precursor to Collins, who has the Sixers playing the best team defense in the league.

But here's where the similarities end. Back then, the Pistons had shotmakers. Nearly every guy Brown had in the lineup in the fourth quarter could make a killer jump shot: Hamilton, Prince, Okur, Wallace, and especially Billups, one of the best big shotmakers in recent NBA history. As long as the Pistons were moving the ball, a good shooter was usually open and would be found. And that's how Detroit won an NBA crown.

We can sit here and pretend that the Sixers' young collection of talent will be more seasoned by the end of the season. We can sit tight, content not to win anything this year with the promise of better things to come as this team matures.

Or we can entertain some deals that just might make the Sixers capable of stealing an NBA championship this year. In any trade scenario, consider that the Sixers would be sacrificing defense for offense. And all the following trade proposals would work financially as far as payroll and salary cap ramifications.

The Boston Celtics are going nowhere this season, and general manager Danny Ainge has said he would trade any of his big three. So would you entertain a trade of Andre Iguodala for Paul Pierce? Pierce, 34, is six years older than Iguodala and has two years left on his contract.

No way? Then how about Iguodala for the Golden State Warriors' Monta Ellis, who recently dropped 48 on the Thunder? Would you consider trading Jrue Holiday or Evan Turner for either Steph Curry or Tyreke Evans?

In Philadelphia, we are so bereft of championships that when a window of opportunity is open, it might be best to keep prying it up.

Three obtuse thoughts

1. After watching the New York Giants win another Super Bowl in a run that saw the Giants win two straight tough road playoff games and then upset the favored New England Patriots with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, if Trent Cole thinks the Eagles are "inches" away from a championship, then he's been spending too much time in the woods.

2. The problem with local Halls or Walls of Fame is that there attaches an obligation to select someone yearly when maybe that someone isn't so deserving.

With all due respect to the candidates recently announced for the Phillies' Wall of Fame, only Curt Schilling has merit. And if he's chosen, there are a lot of people in the team's front office who will get violently ill.

3. Somebody please get a good sports psychologist for Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Every time the eccentric Russian has a bad game or fails to stop a puck in a shootout, he desires to be purged like a statute of Lenin.

Buck up, brother. Get over to Pep Boys and buy yourself a case of confidence.

Mike Missanelli hosts a show from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 97.5-FM The Fanatic. Contact him at mikemiss@975thefanatic.com.

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