Sixers can blame themselves

Here is the column that I wrote for Friday’s paper.

While 16 teams compete in the NBA playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers sit at home left to stew over how a season that started with such promise unraveled so dramatically.

It would be easy to blame all the woes of a 34-48 campaign on Andrew Bynum, and while his large absence in the middle was a big reason for the Sixers’ struggles, there are many reasons why this year was one to forget in south Philadelphia.

There were awful free-agent signings, a coach who admitted he didn’t feel like coaching any longer around Christmas and a former No. 2 overall draft pick who again failed to take big steps forward.

The biggest blunder by far was the decision to give a two-year contract to Kwame Brown, who has to be in the discussion of worst No. 1 picks in NBA draft history, with the second year a player option. One of the many horrible personnel decisions made by Michael Jordan, Brown was picked by the Washington Wizards in front of All-Stars and Olympians Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol in 2001.

Not only did Brown’s long history of laziness make signing him a bad move by the Sixers, but there was no reason why they needed another big man with Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen already on the roster. What did the Sixers get out of Brown for the $2.8 million they paid him? Twenty two appearances in all, while many games he remained on the bench as “did not play, coach’s decision.” With Brown all but certain to exercise his player option, the Sixers will be forced to negotiate a buyout with him because he is not the kind of player you want around a young team.

While Nick Young was far more productive than Brown, he was another player with questionable character that Doug Collins, who had final say on personnel moves, chose to bring in. Throughout his career, Young has never had a problem scoring, averaging 11.4 points per game for three teams during a six-year career, but scoring seems to be the only thing he cares about and that reflects in his other career numbers โ€” he has averages of 1.9 rebounds, one assist, .5 steals and .2 blocks over that time. That didn’t change in Philadelphia, but the Sixers gave him a one-year deal so he won’t be back.

That Collins chose to resign at the end of the season three years into a four-year deal that paid him $4.5 million annually wasn’t a big surprise. Collins had never lasted more than three years at any of his previous three coaching stops, but it’s quite disturbing that he told the media last week that he knew around Christmas that he no longer wanted to coach. Over the past few months he repeatedly preached about how he put his all into his job, staying up nights trying to think of better ways to do his job or get more out of his players, while chastising his players for not doing the same. After a loss to Orlando in February, Collins delivered a tirade about how his team didn’t give enough effort while he was expending all his energy. You really have to wonder how truthful he was being after he mentally quit on his team less than three months into the season.

The only comfort I can take about Evan Turner was that no player drafted after him at No. 2 overall in 2010 has become a perennial All-Star. Yes, Indiana’s Paul George has made an All-Star team and is a very good player, but he was never in the discussion at No. 2. What frustrates most fans about Turner is his questionable shot selection, an inconsistent effort and the inability to progress to being an impact player his draft position says he should be. There’s no guarantee Turner will be back either as a new coach and general manager may try to trade him in the offseason.

Now to Bynum, who draws the ire of most for this season’s failures.

Trading for him in the first place was a gamble because of his injury history and questionable work ethic. Fully understanding that when healthy Bynum is one of the top-five centers in the NBA, the price of Andre Iguodala, Nicola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a 2015 first-round pick was way too much. Ending the relationship with Iguodala was the right move because the Sixers weren’t going to go any further with him, but Vucevic was a player who had a variety of skills, Harklass had just been chosen in the first round by the Sixers and future first-round picks are a valuable commodity. Of course, everyone knows the outcome as Bynum never played a minute thanks to two balky knees, the right one injured bowling while he was supposed to be rehabbing the left knee. Now Bynum is a free agent, after collecting more than $16 million from the 76ers, and he’s looking for a big payday. Will the Sixers try to bring him back? A two-year deal with an option for a third year might make sense, but if Bynum is looking for a max contract the Sixers have to let him go.

Where do the Sixers go from here? They’ll have more than $20 million in cap relief, but it’s hard to see free agents like Dwight Howard or Chris Paul being interested in coming to Philadelphia. What they can’t do is take another gamble or make mistakes in free agency like they did a year ago.

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    Joe Miegoc

    You can follow Joe Miegoc on Twitter @JoeMiegoc and you can e-mail him at jmiegoc@poconorecord.com. Joe has been at the Pocono Record since 2005 ... Read Full
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