Phil Sheridan has a good piece today
on Philly.com which compares where the Sixers are now to where the Bulls were in '04-'05. The Bulls were a young, athletic team who seemed to defy all odds in their run to the playoffs. Just like the Sixers are this season. Hopefully, that's where the similarities will end.
The Bulls went to the playoffs two years in a row with their young nucleus, then cleared enough cap space to add that one veteran they hoped would push them over the top, Ben Wallace. The Wallace experiment was rocky from the get-go, he and Scott Skiles would never see eye to eye. Adding Wallace helped the Bulls make it to the second round last year, but everything fell apart this season. Wallace and Skiles are now gone and the Bulls have more problems than solutions at this point.
The Wallace trade has left the Bulls with a horrible Larry Hughes contract, Drew Gooden for one more year, and two monstrous decisions to make this Summer. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng will both be restricted free agents. Both will be looking for huge paydays. It's debatable whether either of them will warrant the $60M-$70M contract he's seeking.
If Gordon and Deng move elsewhere, the Bulls are left with Tyrus Thomas, an wholly immature player with great athleticism but limited basketball skills. Joakim Noah, a hustle guy who may be a viable starter if you have 2 or 3 really good players to surround him with. Andres Nocioni, a serviceable Euro. Hughes, Gooden and a host of younger players of varying levels of talent.
In a nutshell, the Bulls are going to have to rebuild, again, without ever having gotten over the hump. It's easy to point to the Wallace signing as the beginning of the end, but you can't overlook Tyrus Thomas's effect on the team either. They were an over-achieving team who bought into their coach's demanding style and made it work. A couple bad apples threw the whole thing out of whack and they regressed as a group.
This is the very thing Ed Stefanski needs to avoid this Summer. Yes, the Sixers have cap space. Yes, they have two obvious areas of need, and there may be players out there who could fill those voids, but can they fill the void without destroying what this young team has built? Some could, some surely could not. Stefanski needs to take this into account when evaluating the options, and make a decision that won't destroy the cohesion or the belief in his coach the team has displayed this season. Names I do not want to see, no matter how talented they may be, in a Sixers uniform next season: Jermaine O'Neal, Gilbert Arenas, Zach Randolph, to name a few.
Keep in mind that the Bulls were one of the most exciting teams in the league last year when you watch the game tonight. Keep that in mind and hope the Sixers don't wind up where the Bulls are now in a year or two.
The live blog will kick off between 6:30 and 7:00 tonight, so check back here throughout, or watch along with us. There's a box below where you can set a reminder for yourself. Hope to see you then.
The Hawks lost last night (to the Bulls) and the Wizards opened their road trip with a loss to the Blazers, moving the Sixers 5.5 games ahead of Atlanta, and within a half game of the #5 seed. They're also 4 games behind Cleveland for the #4 seed, and home-court advantage in the first round. The Cavs play the Hornets tonight, if you're into scoreboard watching.