Questions Abound as 76ers Head Into Offseason

May 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins talks to Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard Evan Turner (12) during the fourth quarter of game six against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center. The 76ers defeated the Celtics, 82-75. The 76ers tied the series at 3 games each. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

The 76ers face numerous roster decisions that are sure to shake up the roster of the team that went to game 7 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

With the disappointing game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals now in their review mirror, the 76ers must now begin to face the many questions that could reshape the core of the team.

From the free agency of Spencer Hawes to the opt-out clause that Louis Williams has, to the endless trade rumors involving Andre Iguodala and the potential amnesty of Elton Brand, it would be shorter to list the players that are virtual certainties to return than it would be to list the players whose futures are in legitimate question.

Even coach Doug Collins, who has improved the 76ers winning percentage in each of his seasons as head coach, is a question mark, not because of the ownership groups satisfaction with his performance but due to his vagabond ways. Collins has had a tendency to burn out, at least a partial byproduct of his intense nature, and has never been head coach of a team for more than 3 years, a trend he will try to buck with the 76ers.

As I met with Collins, president Rod Thorn, owner Joshua Harris, CEO Adam Aron, and the 76ers players during the day after exit interview session, the uncertainty of the future was the prevailing topic, even more-so than the tough series they just let slip away.

Doug Collins future

Despite his history of burning out, Doug Collins certainly has the intent to continue what he has started in Philadelphia, and the ownership group is more than willing to let him steer their ship.

"I'm totally committed [to being here]," Collins affirmed. "As long as Josh [Harris] wants me here, I'll be here for him."

"We have a great basketball operations team, we have a great coach, and we have a lot of assets on our team," managing owner Joshua Harris said. "We want Doug to be here a long, long time."

Improving the team

Despite being so close to a surprise trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, nobody on the staff sounded happy with the level of success they've achieved.

"It's great to be an overachiever. That's great. But to be a champion, you can't overachieve," coach Doug Collins stated. "We're going to have to sit down, we're going to have to evaluate every player on our team, and see how it all fits together."

"We've got to get bigger, stronger, more athletic on the front line. We've got to get some bigger wings [off the bench]," Collins continued.

"We've got some good young pieces. We obviously have a lot of character on this team, the guys fought all the way, and they do that every day," Thorn added. "I think we can use an athletic big. We obviously need some scoring."

"I think that we played about as close to our potential as virtually anybody this year," Thorn continued. "I think that we know that we need to get better [from a talent perspective]."

"It's never easy [to part with players]. I was really proud to be associated with the team, and I think we have really good men as well as good basketball players, and it was really heartening to be a part of it," managing owner Joshua Harris added. "But having said that, obviously this is the big leagues, and we will do what we have to do to make the team better."

"I think we're prepared to do what we have to do as an ownership group, financially or otherwise, to improve the team. We want to win. Our goal is to bring a championship back to Philly," Harris said. "We're a well financed group, so we're going to do what we have to do."

Elton Brand and the amnesty clause

The amnesty clause, which came about during the bargaining session for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement the two sides agreed to last fall, is potentially very valuable. It has the ability to clear a contract off the salary cap calculation for a team, potentially creating a lot of flexibility for a team willing to use it. The team would have to pay the salary, or at least the difference between the initial salary the player was to be paid less the amount another team signs the amnestied player for.

That being said, it has a limited set of scenarios it can be used for. It can only be used on a player who was on your team before July 1st, 2011, and can only be used for players who signed their current contract prior to that same date. Which means somebody like Thaddeus Young, who re-signed during last offseason, cannot have the amnesty clause used to clear out his contract.

Which essentially means the 76ers can only realistically use it on one of two players: Andre Iguodala or Elton Brand. Because Iguodala still has relatively good value around the league, odds are if the 76ers are ever going to use the amnesty clause it would be on Elton Brand this summer.

While Brand played well in the playoffs, fighting through shoulder and neck injuries, and the team has a lack of depth in the front court, freeing up the $18 million owed to Brand next year could provide the team with considerable flexibility in the free agency market. If Elton Brand is amnestied, along with Spencer Hawes leaving and Louis Williams opting out of the final year of his contract, the 76ers could have upwards of $15 million in cap space, even with Andre Iguodala under contract.

"[The amnesty clause] is one of the things we have at our disposal," president Rod Thorn said. "It's something I'm sure we'll talk about. There are a lot of moving factors right now that would determine [whether we would use the amnesty], but it is something that is a possibility."

When asked whether or not the ownership group would be willing to absorb the financial hit of using the amnesty clause and paying a player no longer performing for the team, managing owner Joshua Harris wasn't hesitant in stating they would.

"Look, everything is on the table," Harris said. "Yes, under the right set of circumstances we'd be willing to use the amnesty, for sure."

Elton Brand understood the situation he was in.

"I want to be here, absolutely," Brand said. "Be here with this young team, continue to grow. But like I said, it's whatever is best for the organization right now for me. Whatever happens, so be it."

"If it is [the end of his 76ers career], then I've definitely loved my time here," Brand said. "I loved the fans and had a great time. It started off rocky, but we gave our all. I gave my all."

"We'll cross that bridge when it's time. I'm not sure which way it's going to go," Brand finished.

Louis Williams opt-out clause

Louis Williams, runner-up in 6th man of the year voting, is another 76er who could be elsewhere next year. The 7th year guard had the highest scoring average of his career at 14.9 points per game, which led the 76ers. Williams has an early termination option for the final year of the 5 year contract he signed back in 2008, which would pay him roughly $5.3 million if he doesn't opt out.

Williams said he hasn't yet decided what he is going to do.

"I haven't decided," Williams stated. "I've been on vacation for like 12 hours, so I haven't really had an opportunity [to think about it]."

"At this point I just think that it would be crazy for me to leave. This is somewhere where I've carved otu a lane. This is where my family is, and this is my second home outside of Atlanta," Williams went on to say. "But business is business, and once it comes time to deal with that then we'll get to the table."

With other similar players getting contracts in excess of that, it is thought to be likely Williams will opt out.

Andre Iguodala trade rumors

Every summer, 76ers forward Andre Iguodala is subject to numerous trade rumors. This year is no exception, as rumors have already come out that Golden State and Los Angeles are interested in acquiring the versatile swing man.

At this point, dealing with these rumors has become second nature to Iguodala.

"[Trade rumors] don't really bother me because I don't give it too much attention," Iguodala said. "It hasn't happened [yet], so I'll always prepare to come back and be here, and I always keep in touch with the guys."

"After going through it so many times you kind of figure out the routine," Iguodala concluded.

When asked whether he wanted to return, Iguodala answered with a succinct, but clear, "Definitely".

"One of my goals is to keep pushing forward and not just be satisfied with getting here one time but to establish ourselves in the Eastern Conference as a team that's going to be a threat every year," Iguodala said. "I feel like we have the pieces to get there, we just have to continue to improve."

That being said, many people question whether Andre Iguodala can mesh with Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, and Iguodala, despite his contract, has value to veteran teams around the league looking to add a final piece. If the right package comes along, the 76ers may entertain that offer.

Spencer Hawes free agency

Last offseason, Spencer Hawes, then a restricted free agent, wasn't happy with the contract being offered with the 76ers and elected to take the one year qualifying offer, which now makes him an unrestricted free agent.

With a somewhat rocky end to the season, first being benched for the first time in his 76ers career then struggling during the playoff series against Boston, the possibility of there being a change at the pivot position for the 76ers next year is very real.

Both Collins and Thorn, and even Iguodala, reiterated the need for an athletic big man.

Hawes made just north of $4 million this past season.

Quote of the day

With the head decision makers for the 76ers and players in the same room, the quote of the day came from a lighthearted back and forth between Michael Preston, the 76ers Director of Public Relations and WIP host Howard Eskin.

As Preston was explaining where everybody was going to be situated, he said "the more marquee players will..", at which point Eskin interrupted with "You have marquee players?"

Preston retorted with "Funny, for years I thought the same thing about WIP hosts."

Video Interview - Joshua Harris

On the teams willingness to use the amnesty clause and do everything they can to build a championship.


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