Posted Feb 17 2010 4:15PM
PHILADELPHIA -- A couple of weeks ago, the Philadelphia 76ers were at the top of every trade rumor page. Now, with a day to go before the deadline, not much is being written about potential deals involving Philly.
Apparently, the league has heard Ed Stefanski's message to potential trade partners: The Sixers are not "sellers."
Stefanski is making and taking calls this week, but he's looking to improve his team and not necessarily its financial situation.
"The financial does not come into play," the Sixers president said Tuesday. "We're looking for value basketball-wise. We're not looking at trying to help us financially."
Though the Sixers rank 27th in the league in average attendance this season, this is the second time in less than three months that Stefanski has said that the standings take precedence over the bottom line. When the team signed Allen Iverson in early December, Stefanski said it was a basketball move and not meant solely to bring more fans to the Wachovia Center.
But while the Iverson signing hasn't helped the team's financial situation -- after one "Welcome Back" sellout, Philly fans have stayed home -- it also hasn't hurt. Iverson is only being paid the veteran's minimum. Meanwhile, Samuel Dalembert is under contract for $12 million next season, Elton Brand is owed $51 million over the next three seasons and Andre Iguodala is owed $56 million over the next four.
The Sixers have one of the lower payrolls in the league this season (over the salary cap but well under the luxury tax line), but next season is a different story. With only 10 players under contract for 2010-11, the Sixers are projected to be over the tax line.
That might not be a big deal if they weren't closer to the bottom of the East standings than they are to the top. Philly has been relatively healthy all season and stands at 20-33. But after Tuesday's 27-point loss to the Heat, it might want to think about rebuilding. There's a school of thought that it's better to be bad than mediocre in this league, because it can be easier to start from scratch than have to rebuild with middling parts.
Stefanski isn't a student at that school though. He's received plenty of suggestions from friends, fans and the media on how to best "blow it up," but has rejected them all.
"There are a lot of things you have to think about when you begin dismantling a team like that," Stefanski said. "And you're not always guaranteed that when you dismantle that team and draft at a certain spot, that the player you want is going to be there.
"And the year that you may have that cap space, [there's no guarantee] that the player is going to be there that's going to help that team. There's a lot of questions either way."
So the Sixers are a team looking to retool, rather than rebuild.
"We were very active and a lot of teams were looking for us to make financial deals, to send back expiring contracts," Stefanski said. "We want to improve the product on the court."
Stefanski, of course, isn't satisfied with his team. Through Tuesday, they rank 19th in offensive efficiency and 20th defensively. Defense has been the Sixers' strength in previous years and it's where Stefanski's priorities lie.
"This team has to play good, aggressive defense," he said, "getting into the passing lanes and getting into the open floor. That solid foundation defense will get our offense better."
In the period between Christmas and the All-Star break, the Sixers were the eighth-best defensive team in the league, allowing just 101.9 points per 100 possessions. That's somewhat promising, and the players believe they can make another late run at the playoffs.
But even though they've played better over the last month, the Sixers are still 6 ½ games behind Charlotte, Chicago and Miami for eighth in the East. And they're in line to have the ninth pick in the draft. That's no-man's land.
Sometimes only a few tweaks are needed to get where you want to go. Brand was on a Clippers team that went from the 2005 lottery (and struck out with its selection of Yaroslav Korolev) to the 2006 conference semifinals without a major roster overhaul. Brand believes the Sixers don't need to make major changes.
"I'm not the GM, but I don't think that we need to start from scratch," he said. "We just need to play the right way and be good in our roles. That's the most important thing.
"We've showed we can compete. We've beat some good teams this year."
The man who is the GM agrees with his highest paid player. So teams that are calling the Sixers looking to get Iguodala for 50 cents on the dollar probably aren't going to be on the phone for very long.
"It has to be a basketball deal," Stefanski said. "If we send anybody out, we want to bring back the value of a basketball player that can help us on the floor."
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
|Top 10: July 12|
Count down the top ten plays from the Summer League games in Las Vegas.
|Starters: Moving Pieces|
The Starters talk about the contractual details and signings of LeBron, Carmelo, Pau Gasol, and Paul Pierce.
|Play of the Day - Shane Larkin|
Shane Larkin hits a baseline floater with a 28.5 seconds remaining to lift the Knicks over the Blazers.
|Steal of the Night - Archie Goodwin|
Archie Goodwin gets the steal and takes it in strong for the high-flying finish.
|Assist of the Night - Daniel Orton|
The Wizards' Daniel Orton makes a sweet no-look feed to find Daniel Theis open on the baseline for the easy bucket.