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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Springtime for Hitler

Sort of.

Most of you know the premise for the movie and Broadway show "The Producers." Basically, the producers of the show wanted to put on a flop and take their investors money for themselves. They vetted all sorts of plays, and then settled on one written by a certifiable former member of the German Army called "Springtime for Hitler."

It was supposed to be a bomb. Instead, the show became a hit. And, of course, you know the rest of the story.

Fast forward to today's NBA in Philadelphia, where over a month ago the 76ers traded future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson to the Nuggets for Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two first-round picks and, more recently, gave Chris Webber a lucrative buyout and set him free. All of this was designed, of course, to send the 76ers on a free fall and give them the worst record in the NBA.

Bar none.

And most of us figured that this would happen, that while Miller is a good PG and that SF Andre Iguodala has some skills, the 76ers hardly had enough talent to rise above the Clippers' Line (I've named it in honor of all of the Clippers' teams in history that have finished the season with the worst record).

But here's the funny thing, it hasn't happened. Reverting to old-time hoops (and here's a tip of the hat (trick) to the Hanson Brothers of "Slapshot" fame), the 76ers have actually put together some good games since the exile of Allen the Great (read: point guard finds the open man, open man has confidence to drain shot and does just that). Which means, of course, that the kids on the team obviously didn't get the memo, and, believe it or not, the 76ers now have only the third-worst record in the league.

And that means fewer ping pong balls in the draft lottery machine, a lesser chance to get the first pick and have your choice from among Greg Oden, Kevin Durrant and Joakim Noah. Not that, of course, getting any one of those guys would be a bad thing, but clearly having the shot to get Greg Oden was why the 76ers decided to throw their big guns off the side of their battle cruiser.

Now, from an attendance standpoint, the team isn't doing well at all. Sure, they're announcing paid attendance, but the actual attendance according to the cognoscenti is less than that, and sometimes much so. But adding insult to injury, the team isn't doing what everyone expected them to.

And that has some people worried.


Because Billy King is the GM and the 76ers haven't had the best record of drafting or of finding skilled players from overseas during his tenure. Harken back to the 1983 draft, when Hakeem Olajuwon went first, Sam Bowie went second (to Portland, on a day which shall live in infamy) and Michael Jordan went third (think about how much more money he could have made for and from Nike had he actually played in Portland, a relatively stone's throw from Nike's headquarters). Why this is relevant is because somehow, some way, the team could end up taking the next Sam Bowie and pass on, well, a top 50 player (I'm speaking, of course, of the Top 50 of All-Time in the NBA).

That could happen. It really could.

Olajuwon is a Hall of Famer, as is Jordan. Who remembers Sam Bowie (except for hoops fans in Oregon, those who saw him play at Kentucky (he was excellent when health) and those from his hometown).

And then the 76ers would be facing a point of no return. They're hemmorhaging attendance already, and they cannot afford to populate the team with someone who isn't a Sure Thing. They need someone who can help lead a big turnaround, who can step in and be a star.

In the meantime, fans are witnessing, to a degree, the emergence of Andre Iguodala as a prime-time threat. That's great, but the team had hovered in NBA purgatory for most of the Iverson years. Good enough to flirt with the playoffs and/or make the first round, but not good enough to make it very exciting for the fans (save the one year that lightning struck in 2000-2001) by making a deep playoff run and not bad enough to draft an Oden. If Iguodala plays well over the next several months, they might not be able to get that key top player who can help lift them out of that no man's land. They could get a very good player (Noah) but not a transcendant one (Oden or Durrant; and I admit I could be wrong about Noah -- he could be transcendant too).

And that, clearly, is not the objective.

Of course, you can't ask the kids to lose, and you do want them to improve. Which is what they're aiming to do under Mo Cheeks. And, of course, there's no other way to improve than to play hard and win games.

So that's why this spring could well be the 76ers' version of "Springtime for Hitler."

It just goes to show you, though, that the 76ers need a management overhaul, because they can't even tank the season if they tried.

And that's pretty hard to do.

Because we already know that this regime can't field a winner.


Blogger Escort81 said...

I have no problem if the Sixers end up with Noah, who can run the floor very well for a big man and defends pretty well.

Memphis is somehow a worse team than Philly and will evidently end up with more ping pong balls and a better shot at Oden, who could be the next Shaq.

More important for the Sixers is to take their other two (later) first round picks, and perhaps other considerations, and move up to have a second top ten pick. Also, it is important that last year's lottery pick Rodney Carney continue to develop.

The last time the Sixers had two top ten picks was in the Jordan draft that SportsProf discusses above. The higher Sixers pick was a #5 pick and was a small power forward named Charles Barkley.

The lower pick was a #10 pick and was a complete bust. Leon Wood played sparingly and is now a referee in the NBA.


The Sixers are likely to be a lottery team next year as well, but could start to make some noise in the 2008-009 season.

1:22 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, Escort. You're probably right about Memphis, although I like the potential of Hakim Warrick and Rudy Gay more than that of Andre Iguodala and Rodney Carney.

I don't think any team would trade a top-10 first-round pick for two late picks in the first round. Unfortunately for the 76ers, the NBA isn't the NFL, where that trade would be possible. A top-10 pick in this very deep draft could be an immediate starter, whereas the later picks could end up being (perennial) backups. The only way it could work is if a cap-challenged team with lots of guaranteed contracts that's reasonably pleased with it's roster has a top-10 pick via a prior trade, and I'm not sure there's anyone in that category or if even that team would make such a trade. That would be amazing for the 76ers, but I don't think it will happen. And then there's the Ed Snider/Billy King factor, which is predisposed toward making a mess of things intead of making the insightful play.

Yes, the team will be bad in 07-08, and I'm not sure about them beyond that. It all depends on who they bring in, and they haven't had a good track record on that front.

2:59 PM  

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