When Eddie Jordan came in for his first official meeting with the 76ers, it didn't take long for the interview to turn into a blackboard session with Jordan wielding the chalk.
As general manager Ed Stefanski watched the presentation, along with assistant general manager Tony DiLeo, director of player personnel Courtney Witte, and pro scout John Nash, the vision of what a well-spaced, pass-and-cut, motion offense could achieve with the Sixers' roster came into focus.
The Sixers are a team that wants to get out and run and generate a lot of early offense, but the halfcourt sets have often devolved into too much pounding of the basketball and a scrum around the basket. When in doubt, try an alley-oop.
The system that Jordan wants to employ, if it works, would give the team some flexibility and allow it to effectively use a crop of younger players - particularly Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Marreese Speights - who have essentially the same skills.
Whether you call it a Princeton offense or just a motion offense, the idea is the same. Just as there are many versions of the West Coast offense in football, there are many variations on the motion. The lineage of what Jordan employs goes back through Pete Carril, the legendary Princeton coach who worked with Jordan in Sacramento, but was probably birthed by Carril's Princeton predecessor, a legendary non-conformist named Butch van Breda Kolff.
As with all systems, it's darn fine on the blackboard.
Unfortunately, that is not where the NBA plays its games, and the Sixers need more than a system and a coach who can draw it up. They need a roster full of instinctual players who can read the cuts, improvise in a moment, and turn theory into field goals.
This is the way to go with what they have, however, particularly as the Sixers are rejoined by Elton Brand, whose basketball IQ is at the top of the charts.
On the other hand, uh-oh for Sammy.
Center Sam Dalembert, who became nearly an afterthought last season, averaging a career-low 6.4 points and eight fewer minutes per game than the previous season, doesn't figure to matriculate to the Princeton offense.
But what will the Sixers do with Dalembert? That is the biggest challenge facing Stefanski, who also has to find a starting point guard and a solid perimeter shooting threat.
Billy King did many good things as the general manager of the 76ers, but the contract he bestowed on Dalembert in July 2005 was not one of them.
"Every team in this league has bad contracts, but this is a very bad contract," one league executive said yesterday.
Dalembert is owed $23.5 million over the two seasons remaining on his contract. That's bad enough, but he was also given a "trade kicker" clause that calls for a 15 percent increase in that salary if he is traded.
So a team that decides it would like an erector-set center with limited skills would have to pony up $27 million for the honor. That's a killer.
Perhaps a trade isn't impossible, but it would be very difficult, even if the Sixers are willing to pay a good bit of the salary just to get rid of him. That doesn't sound like the business model preferred by minority owner and team chairman Ed Snider.
In the hiring of Jordan, for instance, the Sixers went out and found a bargain as well as a coach. Because his first year's salary will be augmented by the difference between what the Sixers are paying him and what he is still owed by the Washington Wizards, the Sixers got a discount. Jordan will make $10.1 million over three seasons, but the Sixers will only pay $8.1 million of that. In this league, that's a steal even if you have to supply the blackboard and chalk.
"Ed did a good job with what was available in his price range," one league executive told Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com.
Plunging into the red to divest themselves of Dalembert is less likely than having him hang around for two seasons until his bloated numbers come off the cap. It will be a test of Jordan's skills to either find a way to use Dalembert in his system or to keep the center from becoming a sulky, divisive presence in the locker room as his role further shrinks.
One of the ideas on the blackboard was using Brand as a high-post center, which takes advantage of his exceptional passing ability and his short-range jump shot, and also allows him a 10-foot head start on getting back on defense.
That would clear out the lane for the athletic slashers on the roster and, at least in theory, help create the quick, high-movement offense Stefanski and Jordan are seeking.
It all sounds good, and there's no doubt it looked good when Jordan drew it up in a whirl of screens, picks, cuts, and dunks. Putting it into practice is another matter, and the Sixers are still several seasons away from true contendership unless they get hit by an unexpected bolt of superstar lightning.
Still, the idea is to keep answering the questions and moving forward. Stefanski answered one of them this weekend, but he's still got quite a few on his list. The biggest of them stands 6-feet-11 and keeps getting in the way.