As the days dwindled toward yesterday's NBA trading deadline, point guard Andre Miller appeared to be the 76er most likely to be traded. But it was center Samuel Dalembert whom the Sixers shopped, to no avail, as the trade deadline passed without any moves being made.
According to an NBA source, the Sixers offered Dalembert to the Los Angeles Clippers for center Chris Kaman during the last week. The Clippers passed. Another source close to the Sixers confirmed the team also contacted the New Orleans Hornets inquiring about a deal involving, among others, Dalembert and Hornets center Tyson Chandler.
Sixers president and general manager Ed Stefanski did not comment specifically on Dalembert, but said the Sixers made and received calls on most of their roster.
While Miller's contract expires at the end of this season, which had made him a blue-chip trading piece, Dalembert has this season plus two more on his contract, making him less desirable around the league.
Dalembert, in his sixth season with the team, remains the longest-tenured Sixer.
And officially now, the Sixers are going with the players they have. But is that enough?
Only the final 29 games - plus a potential playoff appearance - can answer that question.
Stefanski decided none of the entertained scenarios made "basketball" sense for his team.
Stefanski said they never came close to making a deal involving Miller, saying the Sixers' starting point guard would be crucial in making a push for the playoffs.
"We're high on Andre Miller," Stefanski said. "Just to give him up and say I got something for him, that didn't make sense."
Stefanski said the Sixers would like to re-sign Miller after this season, admitting that negotiations would almost certainly take place after, and not during, this season. Stefanski said the relationship between the organization and Miller and his agent, Andy Miller, was a friendly, working relationship.
Stefanski said he immediately called Andre Miller yesterday at 3 p.m. and reassured him of his value to the team. "To me, he was the ultimate professional when all this was happening," Stefanski said.
Stefanski said there was "a lot of interest throughout the league on our young guys," then defined those players as Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights, and Lou Williams. Stefanski also said teams called inquiring about center Jason Smith, who is rehabilitating from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Smith is out for this season.
Stefanski said the organization was "high" on these younger guys and didn't find a deal worth doing that involved any of these high-potential players.
The decision to retain Miller was made, in part, because Stefanski believes he is a crucial player, a veteran point guard who can help get this young core get to a second straight playoff appearance. He added that the value in that experience for the future of the franchise weighed greatly in the decision to keep Miller.
While the Sixers, 27-26 and seventh in the Eastern Conference, appear poised for a playoff appearance, there was a glaring need for an outside shooter. The Sixers are last in the NBA in three-point percentage.
Stefanski acknowledged the need, but did not believe shipping one of his promising young players for a three-point specialist was a sound, long-term decision.
"I'd say right now we're obviously not shooting the ball well," Stefanski said. "We knew that would be an issue for this team. One, we have to address it internally, and two, we have to try to get help.
"We were not able to pull anything off in this trade deadline to help that. We're not willing to give up one of these young assets right now."
Stefanski said the Sixers would look for a shooter in this spring's draft and this summer's free-agent market.
As the deadline approached, Stefanski said some offers made financial sense, but the 76ers weren't compelled to make a deal except if it would help them on the court.
Stefanski also admitted that the downturn in the economy will continue to affect league-wide payroll.
"The economic situation is a factor now in the NBA," Stefanski said. "But it's not just the NBA, it's the world."
Stefanski said there is no question teams are looking to dump payroll because of the economy as well as to free money for the summer of 2010, when the free-agent market will be stockpiled with superstars such as Cleveland's LeBron James, Miami's Dwyane Wade, and Toronto's Chris Bosh.
The Sixers, though, feel their young core of talent was worth protecting. Enough so that Stefanski was willing to stay put with a .500 basketball team.
"We're past the trading deadline, and now we play basketball," Stefanski said.