Some friendly advice for the Sixers' owner

Posted: April 22, 2013

WELL, AT LEAST the Sixers have the consultant thing down solid.

Between them, Rod Thorn, who is stepping down as team president to become a consultant, and Doug Collins, who quit as head coach on Thursday to become a team adviser, combine for about 100 years of NBA experience.

As he goes about the business of trying again to repair a shattered franchise, Sixers owner Josh Harris will have little problem finding sources for advice.

It's just a question of whether Thorn will be in Harris' right ear and Collins in the left or vice versa. I hope Harris doesn't listen to either one.

It's not that I don't respect Thorn and Collins. In fact, it's just the opposite. Both are great NBA minds with a wealth of knowledge of the game.

And at another time, I'd take either as the guy to get my struggling franchise back on its feet.

But both Thorn and Collins have had their chance in South Philadelphia, and, for whatever reason - maybe the fact that both were here simultaneously - neither has done much to change the crestfallen fate of the Sixers.

Both tried. It just didn't work out.

So, really, what good will their whispering in Harris' ear from the background do, considering how bad things have turned out when they had his full attention?

"It's not a dire situation," Harris said Thursday, fooling no one who has paid even a modicum of attention to the current state of the Sixers. "It's OK."

No, it's not OK.

This franchise is at its lowest point since it passed Anferenee Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn in the 1993 draft to take Shawn Bradley.

This franchise is as close to ground zero since the 1995-96 season - the one before it drafted Allen Iverson with the No. 1 overall pick.

Harris spoke with a lot bravado, trying to downplay the fact that Collins, who only a season ago was considered the franchise's greatest asset, reworked his deal to spend more time with his grandkids and watch his son Chris rather than continue his commitment on the bench to make the Sixers relevant again.

"We're going to attract a great coach," he said. Sounds like wishful thinking from Harris.

"We're going to keep building the organization." More like start over building again.

"We're going to look at all the decisions." Several that they've already screwed up.

"We're going to keep working on player development." With limited in-house because prospects and draft picks were shipped out.

"It's OK." Explain why that is again.

I have covered sports as a journalist for a long time and been a fan even longer. I'm having a hard time coming up with any other single transaction that did more to crush the hopes of a franchise than the Sixers' trade for Andrew Bynum last August.

A deal that by all rights should have been a franchise changer in the right direction for the Sixers now jumps up there with 1986 draft-night deals of Moses Malone to Washington and the No. 1 overall pick to Cleveland as symbols for 50 years of frustration with the Sixers organization.

It's hard to imagine that this time last year, the Sixers were getting ready to become the talk of the town as they went on to upset the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and pushed the Boston Celtics to a seventh game in the semifinals.

The Bynum trade that many, including me, thought would elevate the Sixers to the next level has cost them their coach, the trust of their fans, their dignity, and, most important, their hope for turning things around anytime soon.

To hear Harris talk of the possibility of re-signing Bynum - a center with bum knees who didn't play a game after being acquired from the Lakers - spoke more to the crippled state this franchise finds itself in.

Realistically, what the Sixers have is Jrue Holiday, a still learning point guard who won't make any more All-Star teams unless he gets some serious help around him, and Thaddeus Young, a hard-working energy guy who would be more impactful if he were on a team that was ready to win a championship.

The Sixers will rebuild around Holiday, Young, modest cap space in a year when the free-agent class is not great and, fortunately, a protected first-round pick at No. 11, because they sank into the lottery.

That will take some imagination and innovation.

A year ago, the Sixers had a chance to set the tone for their future when Thorn announced he was giving up his role as general manager.

Rather than go outside the organization and bring in a fresh face that would have the authority to overrule Collins, the Sixers promoted Tony DiLeo, who had kept his job in the organization thanks to Collins.

I'm not saying that somebody else would not have made the trade for Bynum, but Thorn, Collins and DiLeo did. It's hard to wash your hands from mistakes like that.

Harris has a chance to set about rebuilding the right way this time. The last thing he needs is Collins and Thorn blowing in his ears from a distance.




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