Countdown To Sixers Basketball: Day 3
Disclaimer: I, unlike most of you out there, believe the 2011-12 Philadelphia 76ers are going to be a very, very good basketball team. Over the next four nights, I will count down the four biggest reasons for another season that will result in postseason basketball (along with the first back-to-back .500 or better seasons since '01-'02/'02-'03) in the Wells Fargo Center. Why? Because A) I love this sport and B) It's time the people of this area got on board with a young, exciting basketball team.
Day 1: Doug Collins
Day 2: Continuity
Day 3: Trusting Rod Thorn
It says something about an executive when drafting Michael Jordan with the third overall pick in 1984 is the second most talked about decision of a long, successful career. Sixers President Rod Thorn is in fact the man who plucked the skinny shooting guard out of North Carolina in 1984. He's also the guy who, through outstanding trades, transformed the New Jersey Nets into an Eastern Conference power just about a decade ago. On top of that, he's a major reason why you should dismiss the rhetoric that Philadelphia needs to tear apart their roster, get worse to get better, or do anything they can to get under the cap immediately in order to sign a marquee free agent. Instead, trust in Rod Thorn's ability to reshape, reform, and retool this roster into a legitimate contender.
When the 2000-01 season ended in New Jersey, first year team executive Rod Thorn was left staring at a 26-56 squad. Despite possessing the top pick in the previous draft, the franchise wasn't blessed with a franchise changing talent. Keynon Martin looked like exactly the player he would become -- very good, but no where near great. 25-year old Keith Van Horn had become a pseudo franchise player. Stephon Marbury, still only 23-years old, was a play maker, but not a natural leader or enough of a distributor. The rest of the roster was littered with a combination of young and raw (Eddie Gill, Stephen Jackson) and veterans who craved to contribute to a winner (Doug Overton, Sherman Douglas, Kendall Gill). It couldn't have been easy to be a Nets fan as that summer approached. It was probably even harder to preside over the roster.
What happened over the next six years was nothing short of remarkable. Rod Thorn didn't just preside over a turnaround, he built a team that went to back-to-back NBA Finals and made six straight playoff appearances. Trading for Richard Jefferson in the '01 Draft, shipping Keith Van Horn and Todd MacCulloch to Philadelphia for Dikembe Mutumbo, signing Alonzo Mourning, and trading for a maligned, but ultra talented Vince Carter all led to big time success.
But the biggest move of all came on July 18, 2001: Stephon Marbury, Johnny Newman, and Soumaila Samake to Phoenix for Jason Kidd and Chris Dudley.
Thorn changed the entire perception of a franchise without giving out one max free agent contract. He didn't tear a team down further in order to start from scratch. Instead, he evaluated the talent on board and found a trade partner that made bringing a future Hall of Famer to New Jersey a feasible task.
How does this pertain to the current Sixers team, almost a decade after the moves outlined were actually made? Because the current roster in Philadelphia is better than the one in New Jersey when Thorn arrived. It also has a host of players who fans either want traded or don't believe in for the long term.
This is where having a calming, direct and decesive voice in the front office is imperative. As outlined on Monday, Doug Collins can coach up players no matter the circumstance. As outlined yesterday, this group of Sixers has an advantage due to their familiarity with each other in a strange year. Now it's up to Rod Thorn to decide who stays for the long term and who is valuable enough to bring back legitimate, championship level help.
Is Evan Turner a franchise player? No. But neither was Kenyon Martin. Is the 21-year old point guard on this team someone worth building around? It certainly seems like it more so than the 23-year old Marbury was all those years ago. Does the team have to be gutted in order to get under the cap or is there a trade out there that can bring them back a budding star? When and where does the amnesty clause make sense to use in order to clear cap space?
It's refreshing to know that the decision maker has answered these questions before, while turning a dormant franchise into a long term, big time winner.
Coming tomorrow: Scheduled for success