It was right there for the taking. Or the shaking, if you will. The Sixers, the fans, the organization — so close to shedding the dead weight of Samuel Dalembert and Andre Iguodala’s contracts — and Ed Stefanski let it get away.
There is no guarantee the deal was in place and that Houston would have pulled the trigger, but there certainly was every indication that the Rockets were seriously considering taking Iguodala and Dalembert in exchange for McGrady and trade filler. No matter what it took, this deal should have been made. But Stefanski in his stubbornness (or is it lame-duckness) refused to trade for anything other than players to improve the team this year.
In the end, this last obstinate stroke will be the final nail in the Stefanski era in Philadelphia, one mired in mediocrity and miscalculation. Unlike most, I don’t fault Stefanski for the Elton Brand deal. But his refusal to own up to his mistakes and wipe the slate clean for the organization, whether for himself or the next GM, will be what ultimately makes his tenure one that is, and this is hard to fathom, worse than the one helmed by Billy King.
Let’s quickly dispense with Dalembert. His ridiculous contract (and trade kicker to boot) is what has me cursing Billy King’s name every day as a Sixers fan. I don’t have to spend much time deriding Dalembert, he pretty much handles that himself every night on the court. If they measured basketball IQ like the Wonderlic, he’d be around Vince Young territory.
Most people will point to the Elton Brand signing as the move that doomed the current Sixers team. But even though he is no longer the 20/10 guy he was in LA, Elton Brand can be a consistent starter that gives you occasional dominant games if he is paired with a competent coach (i.e. not Eddie Jordan.) Elton Brand isn’t the problem.
The real problem with the Sixers right now is Andre Iguodala. Iguodala is a fine basketball player. He does a lot of things well and most likely would have contributed mightily to a Houston Rockets team (or Phoenix Suns) with the proper mix of players. Unfortunately, somehow Iguodala and the Sixers have convinced themselves that Andre Iguodala is The Man.
Los Angeles. March 17, 2009. Sixers down by 93-91 with 6 seconds left to play. Andre Miller inbounds to Iguodala, Iguodala dribbles to the top of the arc. 1.5 seconds left and Iguodala launches a three that goes in! The Sixers win the game! The Sixers win the game!
That is the type of play that defines Andre Iguodala. In Iguodala’s mind.
Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Iguodala might as well not even take them. The Sixers have played in 17 games decided by 4 points or less, going 8 and 9. In those 9 losses, Iguodala had the ball in his hands with the clock winding down with a chance to win or tie 5 times and missed every single time. This doesn’t even count the half dozen times he’s had the ball in his hands with a chance to pull the Sixers within one possession late into the game and tossed up brick after brick.
Iguodala did technically have one game winner with free throws against Denver with 15 seconds left. Meanwhile, game winning shots in those 8 games were poured in by guys named Young, Speights, Brand, Williams, and even Dalembert.
I don’t want to dump Iguodala simply because he isn’t clutch. Iguodala is a nice player. The problem is the disconnect between Ed Stefanski, Andre Iguodala, and anyone else that watches the games. Ed and Andre think he’s a centerpiece when he clearly is just a complementary player. He averages 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. That’s not bad. But that’s not an All-Star and certainly not someone you build your team around.
Dalembert’s contract expires after the 2010/2011 season, Elton Brand is paid through 2012/2013, and Andre Iguodala is signed through 2013/2014, with the final year a player option. Who is going to pay Iguodala $16M in 2013? Who is going to save Ed Stefanski from himself? Last I checked, Isiah Thomas has been exiled to Elba, and Kevin McHale isn’t Stefanski’s golfing buddy.
By refusing to correct the mistakes of his and Billy King’s tenure, Ed Stefanski has saddled the future of the Sixers with overpaid dead weight, dragging the team and the fanbase into territory most often plumbed by the likes of the Clippers and the Knicks. The Rockets teased us with a life preserver but Stefanski decided he’d rather go down with the ship. It’s been almost ten years since the Sixers miraculous run to the NBA finals. With this administration’s decision making, it might be ten more.