“We gather here today to lay to rest the hopes and dreams of the #RunItBack Philadelphia 76ers…”
That’s basically what a 6 o’clock sharp Woj Bomb said to all of Sixers nation on Sunday night. At the dawn of the 2019-2020 NBA season, J.J. Redick took his hipster haircut and sweet stroke down to the Bayou after signing a 2 year, 26 million dollar contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. As a key component of the last two seasons of Sixers basketball, it was a swift kick to the you-know-what to see J.J. leave and take with him any chance of a #RunItBack reunion. I don’t blame JJ in the slightest for taking the deal he did; whenever a deal gets done that fast into free agency, you can assume that the player and team came to the mutual decision that their time together was over. It’ll be tough to replace what J.J. did for the team as he gave them as a legitimate three point specialist, with admittedly questionable judgment when it comes to Uber drivers (google ‘Redick Mo Bamba podcast’ for further clarification on that one...). Either way, the 1st shoe dropped before you even had time to blink, but it would not be the final news of the night for Philly.
Next up on the agenda for the Sixers was the other two starters from last season’s playoff squad: Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. After about an hour of speculation and fingernail biting, the next domino fell into place: Toby is IN! It was a big sigh of relief for me and I'm sure thousands more Sixers fans who just needed a win. Toby got PAID for sure; 5 years at 180 million dollars is not even fathomable to me. The man is 26 years old and just came up on damn near 1/5th of a BILLION DOLLARS. Much respect to him, all Tobias ever did in the NBA was work hard and get better and better all the while never finding a permanent home in the league. He’s got that home now and it’s in the City of Brotherly Love.
Speaking of Brotherly Love, no one has gotten more of Philly’s affection than the next signee, Mr. Mike Scott. Yup, the #MikeScottHive stays alive and that’s all I could ask for. Mike has the perfect attitude for Philly; he plays hard, cares about the game and is just in general a dope dude. He was in Philly for not even 4 months this past season but he’s already cemented himself as a folk hero in the city. Just today as I'm writing this, Mike was hanging out at Mitchell & Ness, which is a sports apparel store in Philly for the out of towners, and was just taking random pictures. Don’t believe me? See for yourself then…
This dude will never have to buy a beer in this city again, or more appropriately all his “Jack, no ice”’s will be gratis... (shout out that lady in the front row in Milwaukee, you a real one...)
The final piece of the puzzle left over as far as the big guns are concerned was THE big gun aka Jimmy Butler. Jimmy felt like a forgone conclusion to come back to Philly, as most indications showed that the Sixers we’re going to offer him a 5 year, 190 million dollar max contract, and who turns down ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY MILLION DOLLARS. If there’s one thing we know about Jimmy though is that he’s not just anyone. Jimmy loves wearing cowboy boots and beating up on the egos of young superstars, and not even and not necessarily in that order, so he’s a wild card to say the least. Yet and still I still believed that he wanted to come back to Philly, because at the end of the day he’s a dude who fits the Philly mentality of hard-nosed, no BS effort and grit. Guys, I'm here to tell you I was wrongggggg. Jimmy wanna be Jimmy. He wants a team to his own. If he had his way I think Jimmy would play with those 3rd stringers he beat Karl Anthony Towns with for the rest of his career if it meant he would get to be the main man still. Now I don’t want to bad mouth the guy as he going out the door; I defended him to anyone who would listen all season long and was given a superhuman effort for my troubles in the postseason. At the end of the day Jimmy wants the glory to himself though, and that wasn’t going to happen in Philly. This is Embiid’s town and Jimmy knows that. So now Jimmy will try and make Miami his town. At least we got something for him in Josh Richardson (who I guarantee I will call Jason Richardson no less than 50x this upcoming season). Richardson is a defensive minded shooter with some upside who is much closer in age to the Sixers core of Joel, Ben and Tobias. He slots in for J.J. at shooting guard and is an immediate upgrade on the defensive end. He’ll be a step down on the other side of the ball for sure, but it’s a hell of a consolation prize when the alternative is Jimmy going to LA or elsewhere for nothing at all. A four man core of guys 26 and younger signed for at least the next 2 seasons is a solid outcome for the Sixers. The ceiling might not be as high as with Jimmy, but the pieces might fit a bit better, so I'll call that a win.
Now comes the weird part. If you read my free agency preview, you might’ve seen me talk about a guy named Hal Alford. I’m still not sure he’s a real person, but seeing how Elton Brand and crew gave him 100 million dollars, he must be some kind of tangible. In all seriousness, Al Horford is probably so “underrated” by most people that he’s actually properly rated now. He’s your favorite nerdy NBA-head’s favorite big man, because Al is reliable. Al is a Toyota Camry. Al is the original grey GameBoy as long as you have a fresh pack of batteries. Al is cheese pizza. Everyone knows what you’re getting from Al; you’re getting a reliable asset that no matter what fits everyone’s needs. He’ll slot in at power forward and be a floor spacer/defensive stalwart and then step in for Embiid when he takes a rest and allow the team to not miss a beat. Most importantly though is the fact that he will never have to give Jo the blues on an opposing team ever again. Hal kinda owned Jo everytime they played, so it’ll be nice to see him do that to the rest of the league’s big men wearing the right colors this time. And to top it all off, you take an important piece from your main rival, a reeling Boston team who is rebuilding with nice Kyrie (I really like Kemba, who is another dude who kills the Sixers, but he does not scare me in the slightest).
Other than a bit of a snafu in the Jimmy Butler sign and trade that delayed Josh Richardson’s first cheesesteak in Philly, that was the big blasts in free agency when it comes to the Sixers. Some big names changed cities (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn, Kemba Walker to Boston, D’Angelo Russel to the Warriors, Malcom Brogdon to Indiana), but a lot of the rest of the free agents stayed put. A big decision is still coming from Kawhi Leonard, but that might not be until Kawhi-bot recharges and gets that software update he gets every off-season, so no need to hold your breath on that one. All in all, the Sixers defense will be hell on earth for just about any team they face. The offense is going to take some work, hopefully Ben takes a leap and Tobias becomes a real creator with some more responsibility, but overall I think this is a top 2-3 team in the East still and even higher if Kawhi bolts for the westside. It’s not a free agency I could’ve guessed would happen, but it’s one i’ll take...
Ed Roseboro (@ESRosebud)
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