I'm operating on the assumption that the question is when will Eddie Jordan be fired, rather than will he be fired. There's simply nothing else to keep me sane as I watch this team flounder. So taking his departure as a given, a few big questions must be answered almost immediately. I'll take a shot after the jump.
Before we dive in, a big announcement. The goat braces picture atop this post will officially be retired until I can happily report Eddie Jordan has been canned.
Now that we have that out of the way, the big questions and bigger decisions.
The Interim Coach
Interim being the operative word. The Sixers need someone who will first and foremost be a company man. He's going to get marching orders from the front office and he's going to follow them to the letter (we'll get to them in a moment). I think a younger guy fits better than a retread, and he's going to have to be a guy who can connect with these players. As far as strategy goes, think defense first. Factoring in the almighty dollar and I think it's a pretty short list. Forget Ayers, Ford and Lynam, the guy pictured below is my guy and I really don't have to think too long about this decision.
Uh, the guy on the right, Aaron McKie. Not Mo Cheeks. I thought about Tony DiLeo, but he's going to have a much bigger role in a much more important aspect of the team's development.
This is actually pretty simple, there are right now five guys, possibly six who could still be here when meaningful basketball is being played in the playoffs at the Wach.: Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Thad Young, Marreese Speights, Lou Williams, Elton Brand. Maybe Brand doesn't belong on this list, you can make the argument, but you absolutely cannot prove it. Not based on the work he's done over the first 29 games of this season, not with this coach, this system, playing out of position for almost half of his minutes and being benched for most of the season. In fact, figuring out what exactly Elton Brand brings to the table is going to be one of the prime objectives going forward, and also it's going to be a role I'm going to involve Tony DiLeo in extensively.
So those are your six key players. From day one of the McKie era, they're all getting starter's minutes, at their natural positions, per game. This isn't brain surgery:
- Jrue at the point - 30 minutes minimum
- Iguodala at the two - 30 minutes minimum with rare minutes at the three
- Thad at the three - 30 minutes minimum with rare minutes at the four
- Brand at the four - 30 minutes minimum with rare minutes at the five
- Speights at the four/five - 30 minutes minimum split evenly between the two positions
- Lou at the one/two - 30 minutes minimum, mostly at the two, with some PG minutes sprinkled in.
I'd like about half of those remaining 60 minutes to go to Sam Dalembert for two reasons. First, this team is going to defend and, like it or not, Dalembert is the best defensive center we have. I don't want to see guys play solid perimeter defense only to get no help from the weak side. Second, Dalembert's trade value has to be factored into any decision. If he's rotting on our bench, his value goes from little to none.
The other 30 minutes don't mean a whole lot to me. Mix and match between any of these guys depending on foul trouble/situation. None of these players matter in the grand scheme of things, as far as I'm concerned they can all be released/replaced at the drop of a hat. They won't be here when Philadelphia is no longer the laughing stock of the league: Kapono, Ivey, Green, Jason Smith, Brezec, Rodney Carney and Allen Iverson (more on him later).
If McKie plays any one of these players for more than 20 minutes in a game, there better be a damned good reason.
As far as the systems go on either side of the ball, two words will replace harmony and effort. Simplicity and intensity. The offense will focus on four things: (1) Running at every opportunity; (2) Pick and rolls utilizing both Brand and Speights' ability to hit 15-foot jumpers; (3) Isolations (like it or not, the Sixers have athletes who can get to the rim in one-on-one situations, we aren't going to live and die by these, but we also won't completely ignore them); (4) Mismatches. When one presents itself, which happens more frequently than you'd think, we're going to exploit it until the other team is forced to react.
On the defensive end we're going to be a man-to-man team that's going to hold each player accountable. There will be no helping from anyone on the floor but the shotblockers. There will be accountability off-the-ball and on-the-ball. We will spend hours upon hours upon hours in the gym working on pick-and-roll defense and the coach will dictate how we handle the play depending on the personnel on the floor for the other team. Switching only when absolutely necessary, trapping when we see a weakness we can exploit, hedging hard most of the time. This team will play fundamental, hard-nosed defense and every player on the floor will be held accountable for his performance. If you don't defend, you don't play. Simple as that. If Lou Williams, Marreese Speights or Thad Young truly cannot or will not defend, this is something we must know as soon as possible, because if that's the case, then they become expendable. If they can be coached to defend, then they truly are building blocks.
When I sit McKie down and tell him the terms of his employment the first thing I say to him is that wins and losses do not matter. Two things matter: Roster development and roster evaluation. He's got his marching orders, he's going to dole out minutes as we (the front office) see fit, he's going to institute the systems we want and we don't want to see him straying from these guidelines to "steal" wins. His job is to get the guys in that locker room to buy in, 100%, have them ready to play and then execute the game plan. Period. Is it an ideal situation for a guy with aspirations of being a head coach some day? Probably not, but it is that ever-elusive foot in the door and if he performs well (by our standards, not wins and losses) there is the possibility that he can remove the interim title next season.
First of all, Tony DiLeo is sitting in on every practice, in the arena for every game and on the road for every trip. I want his eyes on this roster and I want to know exactly which pieces he believes are worth keeping. Right now, he's the only basketball mind in the organization I trust, and if all goes as planned, he's going to be the one making what could be a crucial decision in the draft this summer so I need to have an accurate assessment of what we need, and who we can afford to move if we need to acquire a piece and/or move up in the draft.
Second, Allen Iverson's time with this team is over. I'm going to sit down with him, explain the situation to him and give him two choices. He can either retire now (voluntarily, or we void the remainder of his contract), or he can play along with the "arthritis" thing until the end of the season, then make a miraculous recovery for the final game of the season, which incidentally becomes "Allen Iverson Night." One final good bye, he suits up for the Sixers one last time, we retire his jersey and squeeze one final sell out from this disastrous situation.
The next move is to make 29 phone calls to every other GM in the league to gauge the level of interest in every player on our roster. I'm not ready to make trades just yet unless the player their asking for is outside of that core group of six, but I need to know exactly who wants which player, how close we could be to making a deal, and which of our core players could be moved if we get to that point, and for how much. For the moment, I'll trade anyone outside of the core six for nothing more than cap relief. But if I'm going to move any of the six, it has to be to move the franchise forward in more than a financial sense, down the road. For example, if someone makes an offer for Iguodala, I'm not even going to be listening unless I get a high lottery pick, cap relief and a serviceable player in return. The overriding philosophy here is that no one from the core is moved during this period of development/evaluation unless our doors are completely blown off by an offer. I'm not making long-term decisions on this roster based on the games played under Jordan. The only possible exception to this rule is Brand. If someone offers me pure cap relief for him, I have to consider it. There's a very good chance that he isn't washed up, but if I have a chance to truly hit the reset button on that contract I have to take it considering the age of the other five players in the core.
The evaluation/development period is about more than simply evaluating what we have on the roster. It's also about evaluating what we need. Not just in the draft, but also from other teams around the league. I'd love to be able to come up with a short list of guys who can really fit our talent and then work from that angle to make a deal, rather than constantly searching for another team who will take a problem off our hands. Marcin Gortat strikes me as a perfect fit at the five next to either Brand or Speights at the four. I'm going to start probing Orlando to see if we have any pieces they'd be interested in. I'm sure there are other players around the league who'd fit our unique roster better than they fit their current one, I want to start identifying those guys now.
What do I expect to get out of all of this? First, I don't expect to make the playoffs this season. Would I be heartbroken if we did? Absolutely not. If we followed this plan and it landed us in the playoffs then we should have some pretty solid pieces in our core and we should also be in a position to augment that core with three expiring contracts next season in Kapono, Dalembert and Green. To be honest, though, I think we still wind up with a top-ten pick. We're talking about splitting time at the point between a 19-year-old rookie and Lou Williams on a nightly basis. There are going to be growing pains. I also think this approach would expose any one or two of Lou/Speights/Thad, if not all three, as severe defensive liabilities, which would lead to more losses. Of course, making any of those guys expendable would also open more doors for trades. You may not be able to get fair value for Dalembert alone, but package Dalembert with Speights or Thad and you're at least going to get your call returned.
Above all, I'm going to be able to update this assessment of the core as it stands right now, and make informed decisions if we do in fact need to tear it down:
- Jrue Holiday - Absolute keeper. In this league, a point who can defend on-the-ball is extremely valuable. His instincts with the ball and passing ability make him a definite starter on a contending team, if his jumper comes along, he could be a cornerstone.
- Andre Iguodala - Not a primary scorer, but can be the best all-around player on a contending team. Needs scorers on the floor with him. Can and does lock down the best perimeter scorer on the other team on a nightly basis.
- Thad Young - Efficient scoring, developing three-point shot, not much else.
- Marreese Speights - Explosive scoring, a liability in all other areas
- Lou Williams - Points off the bench, probably gives up more than he scores though.
- Elton Brand - Toughness, interior scoring. Maybe not dominant on the blocks anymore, money from 15 feet in. Good-to-great shotblocker, good-to-great offensive rebounder, decent defensive rebounder.
So there you have it. My post-Jordan plan for the Sixers. The looming question if they do fire Jordan is what they hope to accomplish with the move. If they plan to bring a miracle-worker in to salvage this season, it's not going to work. Making wins and losses the primary goal defeats the purpose if the new guy is simply going to lean on scrubs like Willie Green to boost his own numbers. The right players need to be on the floor, in the right positions to make in-depth evaluations. That's the only thing that matters.
In other news, Sixers @ Blazers late tonight. I'll be here with bells on to watch Andre Miller abuse Lou Williams and hear how Brandon Roy is the second coming. Preview late this afternoon.