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Monday, February 20, 2006

What the Eagles Could Teach the Sixers
Ed Snider is perplexed. The Sixers' top dog (the Flyers', too) says he doesn't understand why fans don't appreciate how much effort and money the organization has committed toward building a winner.

The easy reply: Fans want results, Ed, not just effort.

A better one: Ed, it's no virtue to waste mega-bucks on overpriced, aging talent! Or even on a star whose unspectacular size means he's the easiest to be replaced. Such spending kills hopes of landing key free agents.

Start with Dikembe Mutombo. He was pushing 40, if not past it (D.O.B. a mystery), and Sixers said, here, have $20 million a year. Huh? Nobody else in the league could have fit him under their cap at half the price. So if you offered $10 million, what was he going to do? Say no? Worried he would sulk? Should have worried he'd break down, which he did. In hindsight, Ed, you gotta admit you should have vetoed that contract.

That blunder led to further wasted fortunes on Keith Van Horn (acquired for Mutombo) and Glenn Robinson (acquired for Van Horn). Consider also Derrick Coleman, Jamal Mashburn and the exorbitant Chris Webber, no longer a power at a power forward. Sure, fans blast the Eagles for being stingy, but stinginess has helped fuel their success. Fans loved Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor and Duce Staley, but the team was better off preparing to replace them.

The Eagles seem to have rules the Sixers would be smart to follow:
(1) Never overpay.
(2) Especially never overpay to keep or acquire declining talent.
(3) Never pay mega-bucks for positions filled by average-size athletes.
(4) Stick to a smart system and find players that fit it.

The last two are also vital. Why do the Eagles rarely pay king's ransoms to running backs, receivers, safeties and linebackers? Because these positions are filled by average-sized guys whose skill sets are much easier to replace than super-sized linemen or super-skilled quarterbacks and cornerbacks. In the NBA, guards are your little guys, the most easily replaced, and yet you're astronomically invested at guard.

Further, that guard and your pricey powerless forward don't play a smart system. Well, you say, how about the year we went to the finals?! Funny, there was a system then ... the shooter played shooting guard, next to a real point guard and other excellent defensive players. Almost all the "effort" since has been patchwork ... haphazard moves and no fiscal restraint, resulting in discouraged fans.

The solution? Pick Joe Banner's brain Seriously. Review the Eagles rules: Negotiate tougher. Let aging talent go. Buck the league, and never pay the max to players who don't play to the max (e.g., play poor defense). Adopt the smartest system you can and play the pieces that fit it best, as you jettison the ones who don't. Evolve into a team. It could take years, and, yes, cost you at the box office. But, ultimately, it's your best hope ... and ours.

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