During last night's SixersBeat show, Derek and I discussed the short- and long-term plans for this team. Specifically, what did we think they should be, what did we think they actually were, what could they possibly be. We ran into a couple of big problems: (1) We have no idea what Rod Thorn is thinking, mostly because he hasn't said peep since the season began; (2) There really is no easy answer, no clear path to set for this team to cross the growing chasm between lottery hopeful and legitimate contender.
Maybe things seem more dire than they are because of the 2-10 start. Maybe the team seems to be in worse shape because they've been missing their best player for five games, but just a simple look at the facts is enough to make any sane person want to find a new team to root for:
- Since the Elton Brand signing (and the other re-signings of that summer), this franchise hasn't made on move that could legitimately be described as moving the needle in the right direction. Not one free agent signing above the minimum. Not one trade designed to make the product on the floor appreciably better. Reggie Evans for Jason Kapono - A lateral move at best. The Sam Dalembert trade can only be construed as actively trying to make the team on the floor worse. I don't think they realized how much worse at the time, because management at the time was obviously over their head, but it made the team much, much worse, nonetheless.
- 27 wins last season
- On pace for about 21 wins this season
- 26th in the league in attendance last season
- 28th so far this year, but you have to believe that ranking is going to drop, possibly it will be the worst in the league before all is said and done.
- To top it off, Comcast is shelling out nearly $70M for the product we're seeing on the floor, they're still paying Eddie Jordan for 2 more years, they signed a big name coach to a four-year contract and they paid a pretty penny to bring Rod Thorn in to fix the roster.
I mean, think about it. How much money does Comcast have invested in this flawed product? More importantly, how long will they be willing to throw good money after bad? When you attendance has bottomed out and you've spent this much money on players, at what point does a corporate entity say, "Attendance and interest can't get any worse, there are no fans left to alienate if we dismantle the team for pennies on the dollar and trim our payroll by 30 or 40%."
Once we reach that point, it won't matter if Thorn can pull a rabbit out of a hat in some kind of franchise-altering trade, because he won't have the financial backing of the team to get it done. And I'm afraid we have to be nearing that point right now.
Forget all the gloom and doom stuff for a minute, though. Take a deep breath and think about exactly what can be done. Exactly what you would do. Exactly what you want Thorn to do right now. What moves can he possibly make to stem the tide and turn this franchise around? Go for broke in the lottery? Dump salary for a shot at a premiere free agent in the next couple of seasons? Trade for a young, undeveloped piece? All of the above? I honestly don't know what the answer is, and I'm afraid Rod Thorn doesn't either. There's no Michael Jordan waiting to be drafted, there's no miracle Jason Kidd (in his prime) trade just waiting to be made. He's got a bloated payroll with no flexibility for another three years, he's got three usable players who could be a long term fit, and 11 misfits with little-to-no value.
I'm at a loss, I'd love to hear what you guys think the team should do.