Apr 16, 2013, 11:57 AM EDT
Guest post by Matthew Hammond
Doug Collins’ looming departure is yet another bad look for the Sixers.
But it could make way for the PR spin this team desperately needs.
The biggest loss amid the Andrew Bynum debacle wasn’t anything about him not playing/earning $16.9 million. Or, about dealing Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic and Moe Harkless and a draft pick to get him. Or, about the mojo from last year’s near-Eastern Finals run officially fading.
It was that the Sixers had a star. Maybe for a year. Maybe for longer.
(Or, as it turned out, for shorter.)
But no matter the length of his stay, this star offered his soon-to-be teammates a golden opportunity: the chance to showcase themselves to other stars near and far their ability as a supporting cast. How they fared would be critical for the future.
Would they be for Bynum what Mo Williams, Larry Hughes, Anderson Varajeo and Zydrunas Ilgauskas were for LeBron)? Or what Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler were for Dirk?
The answer would dictate their treatment from A-list NBAers.
If they were to play well with Bynum, big upcoming free agents (say, Josh Smith and Dwight Howard) or guys about to muscle their ways out of town (Chris Bosh, who has a 2015 player option) might not think twice about bunking up in Philly.
You know the deal after: get one (Amar’e), the second (Carmelo) is sure to follow.
But Bynum’s knees abruptly failing didn’t rob the Sixers of that chance. In fact, it accentuated it: now, the rest of a lineup built to support a star would have to play the season without him. And, seeing as the roster was basically set for 2014, they’d potentially be there waiting for the next guy, too.
Can you say, cut and paste?
Bynum’s implosion actually offered the perfect opportunity.
Had the Sixers thrived this year, maybe squeaking into the playoffs as an eight-seed, stars could’ve looked on and wondered, What would they have done with me here? How many games would they have won? How many titles? How many endorsement dollars could that mean? And so on…
Only, the Sixers didn’t thrive. They didn’t impress. They didn’t entice.
Save for making themselves the subjects of an 11-minute viral video, of a nationally-respected basketball man turning the media into personal psychologists, they didn’t do much at all.
Now, they have an out for that: Collins.
Show the world this season turned out how it did because he’d been tuned out.
It would be believable. The league is changing. Everyone knows this. Gone are the days of demonstrative coaches (except football) with basketball and baseball (guaranteed contract sports, of course) head men persisting as those where an iron fist is likely to be met with a cold shoulder.
Now, the Sixers can use that explanation in hopes of explaining away this dreadful season. They do that not with words – and please don’t – but in the form of an explosive turnaround come next year.
Stars will get the point.
Players need help from the front office, via a hire of a coach that fits. The new mold for NBA head men is young former players – the Suns’ Lindsey Hunter, 42, and the Magic’s Jacque Vaughn, 38 – or old-timers with established reputations (Mike D’Antoni), unbeatable schemes (Tom Thibodeau and Vinny Del Negro) or both (Mike Woodson). They also tend to keep quiet and let their stars do the shining.
If only Frank Vogel were available…
But so long as the replacement is attractive – hell, so long as he’s not a deal-breaker – and the Sixers begin to thrive under him, everything resets. The same magnetization of stars’ attention will be had.
Question is, once they have it, what will the Sixers do with it?
Matt Hammond is the Phillies Insider and Morning Update Anchor for 97.3 ESPN in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter here.
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