ORLANDO – It was as if Ed Stefanski took a measure of relief in announcing the Sixers’ hitherto speculated divorce from free-agent point guard Andre Miller is, in fact, probably going to be a reality.
“We have made an offer to Andre but they’re looking for a better offer from other places,” the Sixers’ general manager said today. “I’d say right now we’re in the mode of looking for a sign-and-trade that makes sense for both sides ... I’d say we’re far apart.”
“It’s both,” Stefanski said. “To go long-term on a contract with an older point guard – we don’t see that as a viable option right now.”
Stefanski said that Andy Miller, Andre Miller’s agent, is currently “canvassing the league” looking for a workable sign-and-trade. Andy Miller said he wasn’t happy the Sixers now see Miller as a long-term liability.
“Age wasn't an issue when he was able to lead the team to the playoffs,” Andy Miller said.
It was believed that Miller, 33, wanted a multiyear deal that would pay him a least the $10.3 million he earned last season, when he helped lead the Sixers to the playoffs, scoring 16.3 points and dealing 6.5 assists per game. It was believed that the Sixers, having invested in youth at the position, were willing to give him a 1-year deal worth about $6 million, the midlevel exception.
Stefanski gave every indication that those beliefs were accurate. Today, the first day NBA executives could address free agency, Stefanski informed the Daily News that the approximate $6 million was as much as the Sixers could afford to pay Miller and stay below the $69.92 million mark, above which the NBA luxury tax kicks in.
Andy Miller insisted that Andre always wanted to return to Philadelphia and said they would continue to negotiate with the Sixers. Andy Miller also questioned the Sixers’ thriftiness versus their eagerness to win.
“I’m not sure whether the Sixers value [avoiding] the luxury tax or winning or losing or advancing in the playoffs as a priority,” he said.
Andy Miller was asked to compare the Sixers’ reluctance to re-sign Andre Miller long-term with the Mavericks’ recent reported 3-year, $25 million commitment to 36-year-old Jason Kidd – a huge pay cut, since Kidd made more than $21 million last season alone – Andy Miller indicated that Andre might be willing to sign for less than his salary last year, if a team is willing to commit to more than 1 year.
“Kidd didn't do any better [advancing] in the playoffs than Andre, and he’s 3 years older,” Andy Miller said (actually, the Mavs made it to the second round, unlike the Sixers). "Maybe [the Mavericks are] more committed to winning, I don’t know.”
They certainly seem more willing to mortgage their future.
A report on ESPN.com today indicated that the NBA salary cap and luxury tax could both again fall in 2010, as they did in 2009. That could limit how much money in multiyear deals teams are willing to commit now. It also could limit the number of multiyear deals teams are willing to agree to now.
Stefanski insisted that the deal veteran point guard Mike Bibby, 31, agreed to with Atlanta this week has no bearing on negotiations with Miller. Bibby, whose representatives contacted the Sixers, reportedly agreed to a 3-year deal worth about $6 million annually to stay with the Hawks. He made almost $15 million last season.
Given the market for free-agent point guards, all of this means that the Sixers will look to youngsters Lou and Jrue.
“The second option is, Lou Williams is going to have a great opportunity here,” Stefanski said. “We’ve been grooming him for 4 years. We gave him a contract last year to play basketball.”
And the Sixers didn’t select Jrue Holiday with the 17th overall pick for nothing. Stefanski had just finished watching Holiday practice before tonight’s Orlando Summer League game when he addressed the Miller matter.
“The kid …we’ll see how he progresses,” said Stefanski, who allowed that a veteran backup might be necessary. “We’ll obviously go out and look for a guy for that position, too.”
Stefanski said that any veteran signed now would have to beat out Williams for the job. Williams, 22, saw time as Miller's backup in key situations last season. He averaged 12.8 points and 3.0 assists last season but has never started a game in the NBA. He signed a 5-year, $25 million extension last summer.
Holiday is a 19-year-old who played shooting guard at UCLA last season, his only collegiate experience.
“We’re going to grow with them,” said Stefanski.
Given the new cap issues and future cap considerations, Stefanski appeared unwilling to commit too much to Miller, despite Miller’s obvious value.
“The marketplace has changed dramatically,” Stefanski said. “Andre Miller did a very nice job for us. Where we are stationed right now – to go long-term is not a prudent decision for our franchise.”