The 76ers’ summer of standing pat took a dramatic turn Friday. First, news broke that the Sixers had agreed to terms with shooting guard Nick Young. That was quickly followed by the news that they will use the amnesty clause to get out from under the final year of Elton Brand’s contract, which will pay him $18.2 million this upcoming season.
Brand won’t be the only player who won’t return next season. Lou Williams’ farewell tweet after the Young signing disabused anyone of the notion that there was still a possibility he might return.
Brand and Williams, the team’s leading scorer last season, were two major pieces of the Sixers’ roster the past few seasons. Now, they’re gone.
Are the Sixers a better team now than they were before Friday’s moves? We can’t give a definitive answer until we see what the Sixers do with the money they cleared under the salary cap. (The Sixers still have to pay Brand’s salary, but it does not count against the cap.) But we can provide some early impressions.
The Sixers seem to be following the same path as the Flyers in letting their young nucleus develop. The logic is that as Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen and their rookies develop, the team will get better.
Another trend we see from the Sixers is a stockpiling of athletic wing players. Nick Young is the latest addition to a group that includes Andre Iguodala, Turner, Thaddeus Young and first-round draft pick Maurice Harkless. Adding Holiday, who often plays off-guard when paired with Turner, to this group gives the Sixers six wing players between 6-foot-4 and 6-8.
The million dollar question, of course, is whether Iguodala will still be with this team when the season starts. That could be a question for the new president and general manager, assuming one is hired to replace Rod Thorn before next season begins. After a solid playoff performance and making the Olympics team, Iguodala’s value may never be higher.
Meanwhile, the Sixers seem to simultaneously be building an inside group of forwards and centers. Included in this group are the recently re-signed Spencer Hawes and Allen, as well as Nik Vucevic, last year’s first-round draft pick, and Arnett Moultrie, the 27th overall pick of this year’s NBA draft. Hawes, 24, is the oldest of this quartet of inside players.
There definitely is a youth movement going on. Of the 10 player mentioned in this column who are expected to be with the Sixers next season, only Iguodala (28) and Nick Young (27) are older than 24.
Brand, 33, apparently did not fit in with the Sixers’ youth movement. He also makes far too much money for his level of production.
This doesn’t mean the Sixers won’t miss Brand. He gave them a physical presence that, aside from Allen and Turner, the Sixers don’t seem to possess. More importantly, Brand brings an air of professionalism that serves as an example for young players. The Sixers might miss Brand’s intangibles as much as they miss his production on the court.
The Sixers should have another big move or two, possibly involving Iguodala, to make before the season begins. Then we’ll have a better idea of whether the Sixers are better or worse than last season.
RUSHED INTO ACTION? Thursday afternoon Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said that Ryan Howard would play nine innings at first base for Lehigh Valley on both Thursday and Friday and could possibly be in the lineup Saturday. Thursday night Amaro said Howard could be back in the lineup Friday.
What changed between those statements? The Phillies suffered a heart-breaking 6-5 defeat at the hands of the Mets, dropping 8½ games behind in the race for the final wild card spot.
If the Phillies were in first place, I believe Howard wouldn’t have returned until after the All-Star break. Moving up his return to start Friday seemed like desperation. And the move didn’t appear to inspire Howard’s teammates. The Braves swept the Phillies.
NO COMPETITION: I wish the Phillies’ broadcast – and all other local sports anchors – would stop highlighting the Nationals’ scores every night as if the Phillies were competing for first place. The Phillies are 14 games behind the Nationals. If we’re going to watch the scoreboard, let’s start concentrating at the top wild card teams instead of the first-place Nationals.
ARTIST AT WORK: Roger Federer is more than the greatest tennis player in history. He’s an artist. The court is his canvas.
Federer produced another masterpiece Sunday with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Andy Murray in the Wimbledon men’s final. Murray, a Scot trying to become the first British man to win Wimbledon in 76 years, played extraordinarily well. But that wasn’t enough to beat the 30-year-old Federer, who some had written off as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic ascended to the top of the tennis world, leaving Federer without a major title since the 2010 Australian Open.
Guess who is ranked No. 1 in the world? Federer. He beat Djokovic in the semifinals and, with Sunday’s victory, passed him in the rankings. Federer tied Pete Sampras with seven Wimbledon championships and has 17 grand slam titles, more than any man in history.
Federer has reached the quarterfinals of a remarkable 33 straight grand slam tournaments. Playing in 33 straight grand slams is incredible. We received a reminder of how amazing the consecutive quarterfinals streak is when Nadal was eliminated in the second round of Wimbledon.
30-PLUS CLUB: Federer wasn’t the only 30-year-old to make waves at Wimbledon. Serena Williams, who hadn’t won a grand slam title since Wimbledon in 2010, captured her fifth Wimbledon title. Williams also teamed with her sister, Venus, to win the Wimbledon women’s doubles crown for the fifth time.
UNION BUSY-NESS: The Union began a busy week with a 3-0 victory over Toronto on Sunday. The Union have seven games in seven days. They host Sporting KC on Wednesday in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup then return to MLS action Saturday against Montreal. At least all of the games are at PPL Park, so there isn’t any travel involved.
LIBERTY FOR ALI: Muhammad Ali is the somewhat controversial choice for the Liberty Medal, which will be presented in September. Ali refused to serve in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, which resulted in him forfeiting the heavyweight championship.
Ali also rubbed many people the wrong way with his bragging and promotional style, which included ethnic slurs directed at Philadelphia’s Joe Frazier beofre their famous bouts. Since retirement, however, Ali has created foundations that attempt to positively influence people’s lives all over the world. The Liberty Medal is a worthy recognition of how Ali has used his fame to benefit other people, more so than his actions in achieving that fame.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 23 years, won several tennis trophies – before he was 13. He has a long way to go to catch Roger Federer.