SAN ANTONIO, Texas - It's time.
If you watched Andre Iguodala in person, you'd see a very talented player playing below his potential. Or if you walked into the locker room after a game and saw a guy hunched over after yet another loss, you'd be nearing the same conclusion: It's time.
For proof, let's read between the lines.
Doug Collins rarely goes a day without reiterating one simple fact: The 76ers' coach has been brought here to evaluate talent, to decide which players are prepared for the journey ahead.
So let's forget the team's record, which is quite bad. Let's forget the roster's salary, which is quite high. Let's forget the remaining sliver of hope which keeps some believing that by season's end this squad - in its current incarnation - will be transformed into a playoff team.
And let's state the truth without pump-faking or jab-stepping: The Sixers are reassembling, which is the NBA's version of rebuilding.
You probably knew that. But there's a chance you didn't.
You've likely read the multitude of quotes from Collins commenting on his search for the right mix of guys, for the secret recipe that will produce the gourmet meal.
But when your ingredients are brown sugar and pickles, there is no gourmet meal. You might come up with a funky appetizer that a few people find interesting, but it'll never be satisfying.
"I mean, I'm being ultra-positive. I don't know what else I can do," Collins said after Friday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks. "I'm ultra-positive: 'Let's go, let's do our jobs,' and stuff like that. But if we're going to judge ourselves after nine games, I mean, I would think that that wouldn't happen."
Collins is smart enough and in tune with this challenge that he might get the Sixers to make a push, get them to 35 wins, but this season will not be a winning one.
Which brings us back to the opening premise: It's time.
Let's continue reading between the lines.
Iguodala has not formally requested a trade, and the Sixers are not actively trying to deal him. There is no "For Sale" sign in front of Iguodala, but the Sixers would listen if you fell in love with the place and knocked on the door anyway.
If you ask those around him, Iguodala "just wants to win." That's the answer to any number of questions: Might he ask for a trade by the all-star break? He just wants to win. But wouldn't it be nice, having a fresh start? We don't care about that, just winning. How happy is he in Philly? He just wants to win.
Well, the Sixers aren't winning.
If you walked into a vegetarian restaurant and made it clear only a steak would satisfy you, the easiest remedy would be to leave, not wait until they changed the menu.
Right now, the Sixers aren't serving winning. But that's what Iguodala would like to order.
The temperature on this situation is rising, but it's nowhere near the boiling point. So we could continue on like this for another few months, possibly into the off-season, but players tend to carry more value when they aren't pressing the phone into your palm and demanding that you find them a new home.
There's been a lot of talk about how Iguodala's time with the U.S. national team might change his game, but there's been little talk of how it might have changed his mind-set.
Iguodala spent the summer shooting at night with Kevin Durant, talking with Chauncey Billups, and watching Lamar Odom. Iguodala was one of that roster's oldest players, with six NBA seasons played. But only one of those six seasons was a winning one: his rookie year of 2004-05, when the Sixers, led by Allen Iverson, finished 43-39 and were eliminated in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Iguodala wants to win, his trade value is high, and the Sixers are reassembling.
Read Kate Fagan's 76ers blog,
"Deep Sixer," at http://go.philly.com/dsix.
Subject: Iguodala not on the market?
Response from jimmy76ers posted at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday:
This is how the NBA works most of the time: mediocre to bad teams with tradable parts - or even winning teams with parts or expiring contracts to peddle - use the first 20 games to assess their roster and how much they want to tinker with it that season. The next 20-25 games they begin to test the market, and trading season begins after Jan. 1. I have no doubt there will be rumors-aplenty heating up soon and that some sort of deal will happen near the deadline. Already the team is sitting Thaddeus Young for longer stretches than before and so it appears he's expendable due to the fact that he's a power forward in a small forward's body. Jason Kapono is expiring bait, and it looks like Iguodala is the debatable piece. Can this team succeed with the young guards, Elton, and Andre? Or is there a trade out there that will package players and bring in a stud in return. It's not clear yet what the other teams are willing to trade. When it becomes clear, trades will be discussed and I think there's a chance Iguodala goes. Too early to tell, however.