Now comes the tough part for the Sixers and their impressive new owners. After the ouster of their spirited but leaderless team last weekend in Boston, the new guys have to decide whether what we just watched was the birth of an NBA contender or a one-year, lightning-in-a-bottle phenomenon.
If you can’t stand the suspense, here’s the answer: The Sixers were one-hit wonders this season. As presently constructed, they are no more likely to win a championship than they were last year, or the year before that. What we just witnessed was nothing more than a beautiful mirage.
The final game was a cry from the mountaintops to blow up a team that earned the respect of a surprised city. I know, I know. How can a bunch of New York investors come into Philadelphia, revive basketball in eight amazing months and then purge the roster that brought them their early success?
Well, they must. Andre Iguodala may have become a temporary hero in the Chicago playoffs series – and occasionally against Boston, too – but he remains an enigma. One or two highlight-film dunks per game don’t make up for the dumb shots and idiotic turnovers that were a death knell for the Sixers in Game 7.
After all these years, Iguodala still can’t figure out how to make a big free throw (with one notable exception against Chicago) or make a smart play. He has a million-dollar body perched on a ten-cent head. And yet, after his emergence in the national spotlight over the past month, he and his absurdly lucrative contract are tradable.
If the Sixers make that one move and unload Iguodala, they will be taking the next big step forward. They will be choosing the long-term success of the team over an ill-fated attempt to prolong the mirage of 2012.
The Sixers were handed a valuable lesson in Game 7 last weekend. They saw what a team with talent and leadership does when confronted with failure. Paul Pierce fouled out with four minutes left and Boston holding a three-point lead, and Rajon Rondo calmly stepped forward and won the game.
Is there anyone on the current Sixers roster who could emulate Rondo’s heroics? Yes, Iguodala did it one time in Chicago, but he has failed on countless other occasions. Can Jrue Holiday do it, or Lou Williams, Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young? No. And that’s why the new owners need to put up a sign outside the Wells Fargo Center: Fire Sale. No Reasonable Offer Refused.
The Sixers proved this season that they could do more than any of us thought possible, but nowhere near enough on which to build a real future. For that, they will need a star – someone who can deliver more than just a beautiful mirage.
When Roy Halladay left the game with a sore shoulder Sunday, two thoughts converged in the minds of every Phillies fan. First, we’re dead. And second, sign Cole Hamels. Please.
The injury that has the entire Delaware Valley bracing for the worst really puts into perspective this silly debate over whether Hamels is worth the seven-year contract he is seeking. Yes, he’s worth it. More than ever now, the Phils cannot afford to lose the one young, pressure-tested, home-grown stud pitcher in their rotation.
No one wanted to read it when I wrote two months ago that the Phillies were not a playoff team this season because no one wanted to face the truth. But losing Halladay will have no bearing on the current pennant race. That sad fate was sealed when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley missed opening day. The current team is not good enough, with or without Halladay. Check the standings.
Allowing Hamels to leave as a free agent in a few months is not about 2012, it is about 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Whether the Phils can rebound from this lost year is a matter of debate, but the conversation ends the moment Hamels departs. The day Hamels leaves – if he does – the Phillies truly are dead.
Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he’s still trying to decide the team’s priorities beyond this season. Well, it’s time for him to stop pondering the imponderable and make a bold and aggressive move. Sign Cole Hamels, at any price. The future depends on it.
Tears were forming in Allen Iverson’s eyes as he took one final bow last week before Game 6 at the Wells Fargo Center. The fallen superstar was brought back to inspire the Sixers, and he succeeded spectacularly in that assignment. Unfortunately, he also provided a poignant reminder of the fleeting nature of sports fame.
A decade ago, he was the floor leader of the Sixers, a nightly thrill show unlike any we have ever experienced. And yes, that includes Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving, two brilliant players who could never fill seats the way Iverson could. Unfortunately, those eras are over now, replaced only by the memories.
Iverson fought back tears not because of what he had, but of what he lost. He is reportedly near bankruptcy now, immersed in an ugly divorce, searching for one more chance. He has failed at several comebacks – including one here two years ago – but there is nowhere left to turn. All he knows is basketball, and his body simply won’t permit the magic anymore.
In the same week Iverson was enjoying his encore here, Jeff Garcia resurfaced at 42 and openly campaigned for another shot on the Eagles. The fiery quarterback can’t shake the urge, or face the truth. Garcia has a Playboy Playmate wife and more money than he can ever spend, and all he wants is one more chance to play football
Most of us are sports fans because we once dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Well, maybe we’re better off right where we are, sitting in the stands. Because in sports, even the best dreams usually end with tears.
Idle thoughts . . . .
• Cliff Lee and Shane Victorino engaged in a spirited exchange after Victorino allowed a fly ball to drop for a triple last week in St. Louis. Everybody was mum after the dugout dispute, but my money is definitely on Lee in that battle of wits.
• The weird part about our most recent sports feuds that is that we would welcome these villains to our teams warmly and enthusiastically. Is anybody out there who would not love to have Kevin Garnett, Bryce Harper or Sidney Crosby playing here? I didn’t think so.
• Here’s one loud vote of support for New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s bold move to allow sports betting this fall. Yes, the initiative will be blocked in the courts, but at least he’s taking a stand against the archaic notion that sports fans cannot place a wager legally unless they’re in Nevada. Bravo.
• Michael Vick vowed last week that coach Andy Reid will not be fired while the quarterback is an Eagle. OK, fine. But how much help is Vick going to be if he’s watching the game from a hospital bed? The best way for Vick to save Reid is to save himself first. Slide, Michael, slide.
• Adding even more charm to his retirement weekend was the revelation last week that Pat Burrell agreed to take a photo with an attractive female fan only if he could grab her breast while doing so. Ah, remember the good old days, when Pat the Bat didn’t have to negotiate for that kind of thing?