Enough Wheeling and Dealing, the Sixers need to Start Showing Progress

Former Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point Isaiah Canaan. Photo from Spin.com

Former Sixers and new Milwaukee Bucks point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point guard Isaiah Canaan in the Sixers Wednesday night loss to the Bucks . Photo from Spin.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Now that the Philadelphia 76ers have traded 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, what’s next?

If you look at it from the viewpoint of Sixers management,Williams struggled with his outside shooting, clashed with head coach Brett Brown and wasn’t part of the Sixers’ grand vision of success.

More importantly, the Sixers got a possible top-five lottery pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in the dealConsidering the fact that the 76ers are in constant rebuilding mode, this is a good thing. Right now, the Sixers are 12-44 and will have someone hanging out in Secaucus, N.J. and looking for a magic NBA Lottery ping-pong ball.

While being in a position to land high-end draft pick is a good thing, it’s also a huge risk. For every Kobe Bryant, there’s someone who turned out to be a wasted pick. Moving forward, the Sixers and general manager Sam Hinkie had better hope that their next pick is the real deal, is ready to play upon arrival, and that there’s light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel because there’s only so much more rebuilding the fans can take.

I remember people telling me two years ago that it was necessary for the 76ers to unload point guard Jrue Holiday, who was coming off an All-Star year in 2013, by the way, to get some younger impact player.

The Sixers came away with Nerlens Noel, who didn’t play last year because of an ACL injury, and Carter-Williams, who was the 11th player taken out of Syracuse. At the time, we all gushed over Carter-Williams’ athleticism and his upside as a 6-6 point-guard.

While we all knew that Carter-Williams was a poor shooter, he played well enough to be the league’s best rookie. He averaged 15 points and 6.3 assists per game, shot at 40 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three-point range.

Before he was traded to Milwaukee, Carter-Williams shooting percentage fell to 38 percent and he was averaging just 25 percent from behind the three-point line. Yet, he was still averaging 15 points and seven assists per game.

The Sixers pulling the trigger on Carter-Williams is an example of how the 76ers and its brain trust, a title I use loosely, might not know what they’re doing. While they got rid of Carter-Williams, who could have been worked with, their two most recent lottery picksNerlens Noel and Joel Embiid were drafted when they had both had leg problems. The big question for these guys is will they eventually be good enough to make the Sixers a consistent winner.

So far, the reviews on Noel’s rookie year have been predictably mixed. The 6-foot-11 is one heck of a defensive player who really needs to develop his offensive game. He is averaging 8.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Noel’s defensive skills landed him a spot in the NBA Rookie game during All-Star Weekend.  He is averaging 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. According to Basketball Reference.com, the last rookie to accomplish that was Hall-of-Famer David Robinson.

Offensively, Noel needs work, lots of work.  He needs to develop some moves in the low post and he also needs to put on a few pounds, especially if he’s going to float between playing the power forward and center spots.

Meanwhile, at this year’s trade deadline, Hinkie was reportedly willing to part ways with Embiid, who has yet to put on a Sixers uniform and has supposedly put on a few pounds.  

For all of his reliance on basketball’s version of sabermetrics and his endless search for the bigger and better deal, Hinkie is going to have to put a team on the floor that’s going to develop into a consistent winner.

Before investing their dollars for season tickets, fans at the very least have to see some tangible progress. If you play for the lottery too many times, you’re not winning…and you wind up being the East Coast version of the Los Angeles Clippers of the Donald Sterling years

And besides, if fans want fantasy basketball, they can get that anywhere on the Internet.

Silver Lays the Hammer Down on Sterling and Racism

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling who made racist remarks in a conversation taped by his girlfriend.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling who made racist remarks in a conversation taped by his girlfriend.

PHILADELPHIA—In what was the first major crisis of his tenure as the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver laid down the moral authority of his leadership like an emphatic LeBron James slam-dunk.

A few days after hearing the bizarre audio of Donald Sterling’s racist rant with his girlfriend, Silver banned the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers from the NBA for life.

That means that Sterling is no longer allowed to participate in any aspect of the franchise—from personnel decisions to attending the NBA’s Board of Governors Meetings.

Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and is recommending that the league’s Board of Governors force Sterling to sell the team.

The commissioner’s action was applauded by Philadelphia 76ers Managing Owner Josh Harris. Sterling’s views have no place in the league, Harris said.

“The Philadelphia 76ers completely support NBA Commissioner Adam Silver,” Harris said in a statement issued by the team. “There is no place for any type of discrimination in our society, and those hurtful and ignorant comments are contrary to the core values and beliefs of our ownership group and organization.”

Sterling’s bigoted telephone conversation with his girlfriend was the tipping point of a sordid racist past that includes the largest housing discrimination suit the Department of Justice has ever filed on behalf of Black and Latino tenants of his apartment building and a lawsuit by NBA great Elgin Baylor, who accused Sterling of running his franchise like a Southern plantation.

The way Silver used the bully pulpit of the commissioner’s office to sanction Sterling was reminiscent of the way President Lyndon B. Johnson used the moral authority of the presidency when he urged a joint session of Congress in 1965 to pass the Voting Rights Act.

“Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multiethnic league,” Silver said at Tuesday’s press conference.

“I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and cause current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league.”

Silver also issued an apology to the game’s Black basketball players who broke the color line in professional basketball like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Bill Russell and Magic Johnson, whose Instagram photo with Sterling’s girlfriend apparently sent the Clippers owner over the edge.

The NBA and Clippers brands were damaged with advertisers and sponsors thanks to Sterling tapes. Carmax and State Farm Insurance withdrew their sponsorships with the team, although State Farm retained its association with Clippers point guard Chris Paul.

Silver urged the departing sponsors to rethink their decisions.

“I would say that those marketing partners of the Clippers and partners of the NBAshould judge us by our response to this incident and I think we have responded appropriately,” Silver said. “I would be hopeful that they would return into their business relationships with the Clippers. … I can understand how upset they are and I’ll do my best to bring them back into the NBA Family.”

Silver’s handling of a potential crisis in his sport from a historical standpoint is comparable to that of Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who became the commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1920 in the aftermath of the Black Sox scandal in which several members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to fix the 1919 World Series.

Landis’ first act as commissioner was impose a lifetime ban on the players involved in the gambling scheme even though they were exonerated in court.

In banning Sterling, Silver made it clear that whether it’s player or owner, no one is above the league enough to run afoul of its rules or to damage its brand.

“My message to Clippers fans is league is far bigger than any one owner, any one coach, any one player,” Silver said. “This institution has been around for a long time and it will stand for a time.”

One Last Hurrah for the Answer

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Allen Iverson gives a salute to Sixers fans at the Wells Fargo Center as the team retired his jersey during halftime of the 76ers game versus the Washington Wizards.  Photo by Yahoo.com.

Allen Iverson gives a salute to Sixers fans at the Wells Fargo Center as the team retired his jersey during halftime of the 76ers game versus the Washington Wizards. Photo by Yahoo.com.

PHILADELPHIA—As they raised the banner with his No. 3 jersey above the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center, Allen Iverson looked up in amazement as the crowd roared its approval with some chanting MVP.

It was one last good-bye and one final cheer from the crowd for the 39-year-old Iverson, who wearing a Black fedora, some chains around his neck and some studious-looking glasses. He put his hand to his ear to really feel and hear the energy of the crowd one more time.

After the ceremonies ended, Iverson said hearing that crowd cheer for him was a bittersweet occasion because he knows it may be the last time he gets to hear the roar of the crowd again until he is eventually inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

“It feels good, but you know in some part of my heart, it hurts,” said Iverson, who won four NBA scoring titles and two All-Star Game MVP Awards. “I realize and I understand that it’s over. When I come into the arena, I’m stepping onto the basketball court with street clothes on and I know it will never be in a uniform again.

“That part of it brings back so many memories just hearing the roar of the crowd, doing my signature put my hands up to my ears.  It brings it back, but it hurts still. I’m a basketball fan, it’s hard for me to watch the Sixers play. … It feels like just yesterday I was here trying to entertain these fans.”

The Philadelphia 76ers organization retired Iverson’s number during halftime ceremonies of the Sixers game versus the Washington Wizards.  To keep it real, those who witnessed Iverson’s jersey being raised above the rafters to go along side the likes of Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Wilt Chamberlain will probably not remember the outcome of the game itself.

That’s because they came to celebrate a player in Iverson who was perhaps the embodiment of what means to be an athlete in a broad-shouldered city like Philadelphia. If there was a Mount Rushmore of gritty, tough athletes in this town, you’d have to carve out a statue of Iverson.

Philly fans will never forget Iverson leading the Sixers run to the 2001 NBA Finals. The 6-foot former Georgetown star was brilliant in the Eastern Conference semifinal and finals. Fans will never forget the fourth quarter of the Sixers Game 1 win over the Los Angeles Lakers and the three-pointer he hit while stepping over Tyronn Lue.

“The best one was in Toronto when Vince (Carter) got 50 and the next game Allen goes back and gets 50. You don’t see that in a playoff series,” said former Sixers general manager Billy King. “It was games like that … beating Milwaukee, winning the first game in LA. The whole year was magical. (Iverson) getting MVP of the All-Star game, I was blessed to be a part of it and to have a front-row seat.”

During the course of the evening, Iverson was showered with affection from all-time great Sixers like Erving and his former head coach Larry Brown, who appeared on the Wells Fargo jumbotron, congratulated Iverson for having his jersey retired.

There were video accolades from current players like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Ray Allen and Chris Paul who paid tribute to Iverson and thanked him for being an influence on them as players.

Some of the players Iverson played against were also in attendance. One of them was former Seattle Supersonics guard Gary Payton. Known as the “Glove” for his defensive prowess, Payton said Iverson was difficult to defend.

“He was always a nightmare to guard because you knew he was going to score,” Payton said. “He could get to the basket and hit jump shots. You just had to contain him and hope he had an off night.”

Iverson was also an iconic figure to the mid to late 1990s hip-hip generation. His braided hair, jewelry and tattoos gave a voice to a generation of young fans that the world would prefer not to see or hear. Iverson brought street swag to the NBA like no other player before him.

“He changed a lot of things with the cornrows, he changed a lot of things with the chains,” said former NBA guard Gary Payton. “He changed a lot of things in the NBA as an icon. When he goes to the Hall of Fame, it will solidify his greatness.”

Iverson, who won the NBA’s MVP award in 2001, said he took a lot of criticism from the media for the way he looked, the way he dressed, the friends he hung with and his attitude. If he had to do it all over again, he would still do it his way.

“I enabled this generation now and took the beaten, so they can express themselves and be who they are,” Iverson said. “It’s a bittersweet situation, but I wouldn’t change it for nothing else.”