Oh you know, your usual afternoon chat with the General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. I have to give tons of props to Ed Stefanski, Mike Preston and the whole Sixers PR team for setting this up and being so accepting of the new media (namely, us). Check below the fold for what I gleaned from Stef during the call.
Jordan couldn't make the conference so he handed off to me on Eastern Time. During my lunch break from class, I sought out an empty classroom to spread out my computer, notebook, and phone so I was all ready for my big date with Ed. After a quick trip to the little boys room so I wouldn't have to relieve myself mid-call, I dialed in and waited. And waited. And waited.
In very un-Stefanski like fashion, he was about a half hour late. So during that time I listened to Mike Preston talk about this and that with a few media members also on the line (including Brian from depressedfan, Enrico from the700level, Pete from reclinergm, Ricky from sixers4guidos, and a couple others). He had some interesting things to say, among them the plan to redesign Sixers.com to be able to stream live video of practices and press conferences. He also mentioned the possibility of allowing bloggers to live blog the game on Sixers.com and even the prospect of credentialing some blogs.
When Ed signed on around 12:30, I had GarageBand pumping and ready to record. He was unbelievably polite and apologetic for his lateness, but hey -- he's the Sixers GM. We can wait. He dove right into questions we had and treated us very respectfully as members of the press. I came away extremely impressed with basically everything about him. Let's get to the question/answer portion of our show.
- They made a hard push for Hakim Warrick using the mid-level exception, and despite offering more money than Milwaukee, he chose the Bucks because of the opportunity for more playing time. Now, the FO feels fortunate to have gotten Rodney Carney for the minimum.
- Currently 13 guys are under contract and are looking to add another body to get to 14 after camp. They'll invite guys to camp that excite them and can bring a different element to what is already in place.
- Ramon Sessions was never really a consideration.
- Same tired old question about the disinterested Sixers fan base and how the only way to solve that is winning games.
MY QUESTION: What are your feelings about the function of the D-League? Would it be possible that, like the Rockets, Lakers, Thunder, and Spurs, the Sixers will own and operate their own team in the future? "We have had the opportunity to go into a couple places, I don't see personally the advantage of owning your own team right now since you can always send down players you have on your roster for two years of service. Until they change the rules where you can have some sort of farm system like baseball then I would maybe say that it makes more sense, but where it is right now I don't see the expense of having your own management team, your own trainers, your own coaches, and everything for one guy. In essence, last year, Mo Speights would've been the only guy we would've sent down because we weren't going to send Thaddeus down. So I don't see that making much sense." I can agree with him about it being a waste of money for just one player, but I would still like to see us use it more, especially if we sign a guy like Dionte Christmas (just an example). Instead of rotting on the bench, why not let him get time in Springfield, and should someone like Kapono get injured, he can be called up to take his spot.
- He expects the team to make the playoffs again this year, but this time make more noise. After being up 2-1 going into game four the past two seasons, Ed is looking to getting over that hump and getting into the second round. He thinks the invaluable playoff experience for guys like Thad, Andre, and Lou will help greatly in the future.
- As to why he didn't sign a veteran point guard like he intended, they didn't see any free agents that really piqued their interest, so the FO was content bringing back Royal Ivey to add another defensive element to the backcourt.
- Really high on Holiday, thinks he has improved every day at the gym. He's excited for his role in Eddie Jordan's two guard offense that will lessen the need of a true point guard. He said basically what we all heard about Jrue's year at UCLA -- thought Collison would have gone pro, forced to accept role at a different position, but still feels he is a true point guard. He likes his strength, ball-handling, knack for finishing at the rim, and is pleasantly surprised with his improved jumper. If he doesn't turn the ball over and continues to be a willing defender, there's no reason he won't get time this year. Likes him playing with Lou at the other guard spot because of Jrue's versatility in covering taller guards.
- Listed Lou, Andre, Thad, Brand, and Sammy as the starting five right now, but didn't close the door on somebody winning a job out of camp. Seemed to think having Brand at the 5 would be more of a quirky matchup ploy than anything to consider a long term option.
- He likes the versatility guys like Thad, Andre, Carney, and Jrue bring to the table, allowing them to play with matchups and bigger or smaller lineups to pressure the ball more. He thinks Kapono will play a big role in the offense because of his ability to make shots, something this team hasn't had in a while.
- He thinks character is something that teams look at more than they used to. He's confident in the chemistry of this team because they did character checks on their players.
- Does not do Twitter, reads hoopshype daily. He mentioned that he plans on talking with the players before the season to ensure they wouldn't post anything online that could be detrimental to the team or to themselves.
- Both Jason Smith and Elton Brand are 100% and have been cleared to play since July. Jason is up to over 250 pounds and has put on plenty of muscle during his recovery time, still wants him to add more so he can bang down low. Elton is ready to go, on a mission, feels good about himself, blah blah blah. I'm just ready for him to be back out there.
- He's excited to see where Bill fits into Eddie's offense. Once again, because of the two guard backcourt, he could see a possibility where Green would handle point guard duties. He referenced his time in Jersey when Kerry Kittles and Lucius Harris would be the guards when JKidd was on the bench. It all depends on where he finds his niche in camp. I wouldn't be surprised to see him off the team before the start of the season.
- In regards to Iguodala playing the point, Andre says he'd be willing to play any position. It's true he played the point in high school and he's excited about the prospect of bringing the ball up, but he reiterated how in the Princeton offense, the official role of "point guard" is not much more than a title.
- They've done plenty of international scouting, but not much has turned up. They went after Nocioni a few years ago, but couldn't get all the way there.
- Had contact with Flip Murray's camp but they were looking for a sizable payday so they took negotiations elsewhere. They're comfortable with Carney, and the players still available are realizing the market isn't the same as it was a year ago.
- Some closure on the Andre Miller situation: He would have been comfortable with trading Miller near the deadline last season, but no reasonable offers were on the table, so they decided to go into the playoffs with Miller in their pocket. It didn't make sense to make a trade for the sake of making one that wouldn't help their future out in any way. He repeated how much he thinks the playoff experience for the younger guys will prove useful this year and beyond.
- He thinks Eddie Jordan's tag of being solely an offensive coach comes from his use of the Princeton Offense rather than his inability to coach defense. A lot of his past teams' inadequacies on the defensive end was a personnel problem and is thrilled with the defensive capabilities of this athletic Sixers team. The primary questions they asked their potential coaches were how they would integrate Brand, Iguodala, and Young into the offense. Jordan believes this team will emphasize defense and transition points generated from being a good defensive team.
A little over a month until the season. While I didn't agree with all of Ed's prior moves, I feel confident in him as our general manager making the right decisions in the next few years. I'm excited to see what this team has to offer.