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Daily Times staff writer Dennis Deitch covers the 76ers

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sixers Trying To Swap Cards, Exchange Chips At NBA's Ruthless Card Table

"You've got to know when to hold 'em/ know when to fold 'em/ know when to walk away/know when to run..." — The Gambler
It might seem odd to lead a column about the 76ers with the chorus to that Kenny Rogers classic. This is, after all, the franchise whose idea of "getting crazy" during the past couple of years involved trading pine-strapped Marreese Speights for cap room, then using that cap room to take Sam Young out of Memphis and use him as a bench ornament for two months.
Since arriving on the scene two years ago to take over the team presidency and give Ed Stefanski a gentle shove out the door, Rod Thorn has gotten lots of deep-tissue massages, but has done little to the Sixers' roster than offer a soft, one-handed caress to its shoulder.
To stick with the poker theme, Thorn has been doing little more than tossing his cards into the muck and posting the blinds for two years.
Late in the regular season there were mumbles when the media crowds dispersed that the front office was going to get a facelift this summer, and it wasn't going to be any of that softcore Botox business.
It had become clear early in Josh Harris' tenure as Sixers majority owner that he had come to believe in Doug Collins. And if Collins -- who, remember, was hired by Stefanski a couple of weeks before Thorn's arrival -- didn't think Thorn had the vigor to do some wheeling and dealing to get the Sixers out of this cycle of mediocrity their lack of an elite player had created, Harris was willing to listen.
Timing, however, is everything. And when the Philadelphia Daily News reported Tuesday that the Sixers were ready to start interviewing candidates to succeed Thorn -- AND that Thorn not only would be part of the interviewing process, but also would stay on board in a weird transitional role for as long as the next 12 months -- it is tough to wonder: Why now? Why not quietly get Thorn and Collins to play nice for the next month and find the draft-day deals they want to consider?
Why couldn't they come to an agreement that neither Spencer Hawes nor Lou Williams -- who will opt out of the final year of his contract in the coming days -- really fits into their plans? Why, if Collins has this confidant's relationship with Harris, not let him point to the free agents he wants them to pursue, and decide whether Elton Brand's $18 million number for 2012-13 should get the amnesty treatment?
Instead, this is what the Sixers have on their plate for the next three weeks: Several awkward interviews for a replacement who, well, won't really replace Thorn right away; a draft being conducted by Courtney Witte, who may or may not be a casualty of the shakeup; aspirations of moving up in the draft and getting trades involved in what will be a significant roster shakeup; and the start of free agency, which with a relatively shallow pool of talent is going to require quick and aggressive decision making.
If that sounds like chaos ... yeah, it does. Which is why as anxious as everyone might be to get Danny Ferry, Rick Sund, Troy Weaver and other candidates sorted through, there are instances where folding and waiting for the blinds to pass makes sense.
Privately, the Collins camp had questions about how much intestinal fortitude Thorn had at this stage of his career to think big and act on it. When you look at the transactions that took place, it's tough to argue against that critique.
It can be argued that the Sixers haven't been in a position to do much more than that. Andre Iguodala was playing with exhausted, chronically sore legs in 2010-11, seriously devaluing him on the market. Brand, while an inspiring comeback story two seasons ago, wasn't of interest to any team at his cap figure.
A change had to be made in the front office. However, when you realize how sensitive a time this next month will be to the franchise's future, promoting upheaval in the middle of it could leave the Sixers swerving like a distracted driver at a time when they need a great deal of focus.
To contact Dennis Deitch, email Follow him on Twitter @DennisDeitch

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