PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The 76ers are ready to dump Philadelphia for the promise of a fresh start practicing in New Jersey.
But who comes along for the ride?
The Sixers have pointed to the fall opening of their state-of-the art 120,000-square foot training headquarters in Camden as the rebirth of the distressed franchise.
Team officials tout the hydrotherapy room, two regulation-size courts and a private players restaurant among the goodies that will keep their stars happy and entice free agents to sign.
Selling players on the state of the franchise is the tricky part. Philadelphia must still suffer as the home of 41 games.
The third year of coach Brett Brown’s tenure was the worst one yet — and at 10-72, among the worst in NBA history.
Unhappy with his role, general manager Sam Hinkie — the architect of the rebuilding process — quit with days left in the season. Jerry Colangelo was in charge. Then he wasn’t. His son, Bryan, is now calling the shots moving ahead in his role as team president.
Jahlil Okafor gave the Sixers plenty of headaches with his off-court conduct, which included his role in Boston street fight that earned him TMZ scrutiny and a two-game suspension. Nerlens Noel was slapped with a lawsuit by his landlords that’s still unresolved. Joel Embiid was no closer to playing two years after he was drafted.
“It was a season of distraction, I concede that,” Brown said Thursday.
But, not so deep down, the Sixers insist they can see the light at the end of the Ben Franklin Bridge.
The Sixers aren’t predicting playoffs yet. But they aren’t talking tanking, either.
“How do we re-establish winning,” Brown asked. “The conversation gets directed a little bit more into free agents or draft picks or veterans on the team and keepers.”
This is the offseason that can truly shape the direction of the 76ers for the next 10 years:
— They have roughly $60 million in salary cap space.
— They could have up to four first-round picks.
— They have a president in Colangelo who wants players who can contribute in 2016-17, not gamble on D-League castoffs and second-round picks to fill a roster.
“We talk a lot about moving forward and bringing ‘A’s to Camden,” Brown said. “We’re going to be moving into a whole new world.”
Get your passport ready. Here’s what is ahead:
BIGGEST NEED: Another big man! Kidding, kidding. The Sixers are seemingly set with the bigs left standing out of Embiid, Noel and Okafor. But they need a point guard. The Sixers have been without a true point guard since they traded Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams may be not be an All-Star, but he’s still better than the combination of Ish Smith and T.J. McConnell. How about taking Jamal Murray out of Kentucky? Or Providence’s Kris Dunn?
THE GOOD NEWS: The season is over. Beyond that, the Sixers could have two top-five lottery picks and, perhaps, a healthy Embiid on the roster next season. The Sixers might even have overseas prospect Dario Saric should he break free from his European deal. Colangelo said the Sixers will become players in the free-agent market this summer. Could 10 wins become 30 with an open wallet?
THE BAD NEWS: Brown struggled all season trying to figure out how to pair Noel and Okafor and never really got it right. The Sixers could trade one of them and try and pair the other with Embiid. Okafor is headed to Duke for summer school, but how will he handle plenty of cash and months of free time?
COMFORTABLE COACH: Brown earned a two-year contract extension as a reward for the stoic way he’s handled this mess of a rebuilding process. Sure, he knew the first two years would be tough. But a 1-30 start in Year 3 was the fault of Hinkie’s failed process, not Brown’s handling of the roster. Colangelo said Brown is his coach moving forward, putting to rest any rumors the Sixers could be looking at a new man on the bench over the summer.
NO WINNING STREAK: The 76ers finished as the sixth team in NBA history to go a full season without winning back-to-back games, according to STATS. The others were the 1947-48 Providence Steamrollers (48 games), 1986-87 Los Angeles Clippers (82 games), 2004-05 Atlanta Hawks (82 games), 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats (66 games) and 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks (82 games).
INJURY UPDATE: Brown said he does not know if Embiid, who has needed two surgeries on his right foot since he was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2014 draft, will play in the summer league. Okafor was shut down last month after surgery to repair a small tear in his right meniscus.
“Jahlil is probably a month away from actually getting on the court,” Brown said.