Brett Brown told us this was coming.
The most jarring non-Twitter moment in the last two Sixers seasons came May 11. After the season ended, Brown said the team needed to immediately add a superstar. Moments later, Bryan Colangelo, then Brown's boss, contradicted him. Colangelo said that adding a star could wait.
Colangelo isn't Brown's boss anymore, and the Sixers went "star-hunting," as Brown put it last month.
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The Inquirer and Daily News learned that Brown and Sixers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer met with LeBron James' representatives Sunday, the first day of NBA free agency. ESPN first reported that the Sixers would meet James' people, then, a few hours later, reported that LeBron would become LABron for the next four years for the fee of $154 million.
Back at the practice facility in Camden, Marc Eversley and Ned Cohen were as conspicuously absent from the team's summer-league minicamp session as Brown. Eversley is the vice president of player personnel and Cohen is VP of basketball operations, and both have seen their roles increase since Colangelo's departure following Burnergate. They're the logical people to negotiate with the Spurs, who are negotiating the trade of Kawhi Leonard.
Sell the farm, fellas. LeBron is gone, but they can push every chip in the kitty to the middle of the table — even if Leonard insists that he still wants to go home to Los Angeles after next season, when he can become a free agent. Lots can happen from June to June.
James just made the Lakers an instant contender, the Warriors notwithstanding, but the Sixers did what they could to keep that from happening. Leonard apparently is intent on following James, either now via trade or a year from now as a free agent. One report said the Spurs asked the Sixers for three first-round picks and two current players, which would be fine if there was a better chance that Leonard would sign long-term.
Oh well. That's the way it goes.
For a few heady hours on a 100-degree Sunday, the Sixers were a viable landing place for established, star-quality talent for the first time since Andrew Bynum arrived then quickly proved he no longer was star-quality talent. That was 2012. That was six years ago. It's been a long time.
Brown and his bosses had to hunt those stars. They had to try to run them down. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are ripe, and so, as long as the player wasn't a rental, the price was immaterial.
They should have felt free to trade Dario Saric and Robert Covington and Markelle Fultz and any draft picks the Spurs wanted. Throw in Michael Rubin's helicopter, and Meek Mill, too. He'd learn to love San Antonio.
The Sixers might have dodged a bullet. James, 33, has been in the last eight NBA Finals and won three of them. He is at the height of his powers, he's the most valuable player every season (MVP voting has become embarrassingly useless), and he makes any team he lands with at least the second-best team in the NBA, and that's only because Kevin Durant plays for the Golden State. LeBron also has been in the league for 15 seasons, led the league in minutes played the last two seasons, and looked exhausted for much of the postseason. Kings don't reign forever.
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Leonard, meanwhile, is just 27, and he is just realizing the scope of his abilities. Wherever he lands this season and/or next, that team might be good enough to beat the Warriors. That includes the Sixers, if the Spurs' asking price drops into player-rental range. And then, who knows what might happen? Leonard might want to return to L.A., but the Lakers might be a disaster a year from now. Besides, with a little reinforcement, the addition of Leonard alone could take the Sixers to the title — he's that good. Winning tends to change perspectives.
This time last year, the consensus was that Paul George would abandon the Thunder after one season to sign with the Lakers. Then, on Saturday, Russell Westbrook and the team threw George a party, and George agreed to return to OKC.
If it somehow comes to it next summer, we're betting Embiid throws Kawhi a way better party.
It probably won't come to it, but that shouldn't bother Processors. The organic method might work, too. It is, after all, a Process.
Embiid has played just 94 regular-season games in four seasons but already is an all-star starter. Simmons, the rookie of the year, should join him soon. They will become MVP candidates. They are 24 and 21 years old.
Fultz? He missed most of his rookie season and is working through shooting yips, a Sixers source confirmed. He's enigmatic: freakish athlete, weird dude, real young, needs focus. Do not abandon hope.
Saric can play. So can Covington. The Sixers have a squad. Sure, stars would matter. Stars would accelerate the development of Embiid and Simmons. Brown realized this.
Brown took two billionaires, flew to L.A., and chased the stars.
It's all that he could do.
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