Sixers forced to mull Plan B without knowing how Plan A turns out
It appears this much is clear when it comes to the 76ers: The new ownership, led by Josh Harris, is willing to do pretty much anything it can to make this organization relevant again. It proved as much when, after the team tickled the fans' fancy with a two-round playoff run last season, the front office blew up the roster and landed a prized possession in Andrew Bynum. The claim was that the move was done because the roster that took them to a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals had maxed out.
It was a gutsy move, but one that proved to the city that the owners were all in - that winning now was the goal and that taking risks wasn't going to be something that restrained their decision-making. One of Harris' favorite sayings is: "Intelligent risk."
Now the Bynum Experiment apparently has blown up in the lab and any experienced betting man probably would bet against him playing for the Sixers this season. Which means the Sixers could try to sign him after the season, sight unseen, to some kind of a deal with the belief that his aching knees will be able to carry the 7-footer and enable him to perform to his All-Star status, or cut him loose and watch their payroll increase the $16 million-plus they paid him this season.
So Thursday's trade deadline came and went with barely a ripple to the roster, save the addition of backup guard Charles Jenkins, because the organization is still saying that it is banking on a future with Bynum. And if that doesn't happen, it does have a Plan B, which, of course, it won't share.
"Only if we thought it would make our team better," DiLeo said Friday of the thought behind Thursday's stand-pat action. "We did talk to every team. There are a lot of players out there who will be free agents. The danger with free agency is that you may give up some assets and then, at the summer, they may just walk away, and then you lose all your assets that you gave up.
"We talked with every team. We've been involved [in talks] going back to when Memphis was making their trades, when Oklahoma City made their big trade. We were involved in talks with every team, and we were involved at the trade deadline with every team. We have a lot of questions, like we've always said, and we don't have a lot of answers right now. We felt it was better to not risk anything right now and wait until the summer and evaluate our team then."
The Sixers will wait out this season to see whether Bynum can get on the court and whether he'll be such an exciting mesh with All-Star guard Jrue Holiday that he is worth risking a lot of money for at least a few years. Or that his knees will be medically cleared by doctors and that, again, the risk is worth taking.
If Bynum does not return, there's little doubt that Plan B probably will include a major shakeup, as this ownership will not sit idly by and watch yet another mediocre season be put in the media guide.
The plans all come back to Bynum right now and whether he'll play again, whether he'll want to remain a Sixer, and, if he does, whom the organization will surround him with.
As much as new ownership appears to be set on making big splashes, there is a glaring hole that needs to be fixed. The need for such overhauls might have been less prominent had the drafting been better over the past several years.
There's no doubt that a lot of luck happens on draft night, but when will that luck go the Sixers' way? We'll just go back to 2006, when the Sixers got Rodney Carney with the 16th overall pick, though Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry were still there. The next year, the Sixers tried desperately to move up from the 12th pick that they owned with their eyes on the likes of Joakim Noah, Brandon Wright or Yi Jianlian. They couldn't, so they chose Thaddeus Young at 12. Young has turned out to be a fine player, but if you look further in the draft you notice that Marc Gasol was taken 48th, 10 picks after the Sixers chose Kyrylo Fesenko. Who?
Or how about the next year, when they took Marreese Speights at 16, leaving 7-2 Roy Hibbert, Ryan Anderson, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Pekovic and DeAndre Jordan on the board? Many think that DeMarcus Cousins, instead of Evan Turner, would have been the way to go in 2010, but that's still debatable. Maybe Kenneth Faried instead of Nik Vucevic in 2011?
Again, lots of luck is needed there, and the Sixers just seem short of it. And now they have to figure out not only what to do with Bynum, but also the bigger question: What will they do without him?
"Like we've always said we have Plan A, and I think everybody knows what A stands for and then we have Plan B," DiLeo said. "Right now, we don't know. We have to wait and see when and if we can get our complete team out on the court and see how it looks, get some answers, evaluate all of our players, and then, in the summer, make some decisions. We do have some flexibility in the summer. We have a lot of free agents. We have a lot of good, young players. We have an All-Star point guard that we can build around, so we have a lot of options, and we have a lot of different ways we can go this summer.
"When we talk about Andrew, we all know what he can do on the court. It's not a question of what he can do on the court. He's proven what he can do on the court. It's more of a medical issue, how his body holds up, how he responds to playing. That's the decision not only the basketball operations will have to make, but the medical staff will also have to make."