Collins excited over Sixers trade

Posted: August 11, 2012

LONDON - The eyes of the basketball world were lured away from the Olympics, following Dwight Howard all the way to Los Angeles. And that's fine. The Lakers have put together the NBA's newest supergroup, adding Howard and Steve Nash to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

The rest of the league couldn't do much to stop it. One team, though, found a way to create an opportunity for itself.

"We had it in our sights, that we could get in on Andrew Bynum," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "He might be the best low-post center in the NBA. You can throw the ball in to him, he can score, he can defend, he can rebound."

After spending two years putting a puzzle together, Collins has a whole table full of new pieces to work with. Taking a break between broadcasting two Olympic semifinals here for NBC, Collins sounded pretty excited talking about the possibilities.

"Two years ago," he said, "my frontcourt at the end of games was basically E.B. [Elton Brand] and Thad Young. We were undersized. We think we've gotten bigger on the front line. We're more athletic. We're bigger on the perimeter, we've added shooting. All the things we set out to do, we think we've done that. Miami is still obviously the class of the East, but we think we can line up and play with most teams now."

Brand and Andre Iguodala, the veterans and highest-paid players, are gone. Lou Williams decided to sign elsewhere as a free agent. Jodie Meeks signed with the Lakers Friday.

The Sixers have added Bynum, Jason Richardson, Nick Young, Kwame Brown, Dorell Wright, and Arnett Moultrie. That's half a roster's worth of players, most of whom figure to be in Collins' rotation (pending future moves, of course).

Richardson, Young, and Wright are all better outside shooters than anyone the Sixers had last year. Bynum is their first real center in years, maybe decades.

"This is a franchise-changing day," co-owner Adam Aron said, "being able to pull down Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson."

Aron said the deal was put together "over the last couple of days," while he and the rest of the principal owners were in London for the Games.

"It went from an idea to a transaction very fast," Aron said. "The long-distance bills were significant."

Will the mix work? Collins certainly thinks so. Bynum is a dynamic player who can be the first scoring option here after being third behind Bryant and Gasol with Los Angeles. But he also helps improve everyone else. Brown's role is more suitable: a defensive presence without the pressure to start and to score. And if Collins was excited by having Brown help Thad Young's game, that benefit is doubled by Bynum.

"It will help Thad, playing with a bigger, stronger guy," Collins said.

But maybe the beauty of what the Sixers have put together is that if it doesn't work, it won't set them back for years or even a decade. They are not locked into long-term deals with anyone.

"[Owner] Josh Harris and I always talk about intelligent risk," Collins said. "His business is built on intelligent risks, and we think we've taken a lot of intelligent risks. We have not invested a ton of money. We don't have bad contracts."

Bynum can become a free agent next season, but the Sixers have two things going for them if they choose to re-sign him. He is from Plainsboro, N.J., and, Collins said, "I think he's wanted to get back to the East Coast." Even more important, should the Brooklyn Nets come knocking, the Sixers will be able to offer Bynum roughly $20 million more than other teams.

"We think Andrew is going to want to stick around," Collins said. "I think the change of scenery is going to be good for him."

The money will help. So will the sense of whether this team can put it together and win. After their July moves - adding Nick Young, Brown, and Wright, dumping Brand's salary - there was a sense the Sixers were setting the table for a big splurge next year. Now they are a year ahead, adding a centerpiece player while maintaining flexibility to make big moves in the future.

Considering how easy it would have been to ride the momentum of that feel-good playoff run, this massive shake-up does reveal a glimpse into how the new ownership group will operate.

"We are serious guys who seriously want to give Philly a winner," Aron said. "We're not the kind of people who sit on yesterday's accomplishments."


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Sheridanscribe. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan

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