WHATEVER IS destined to happen in negotiations between the 76ers and free-agent point guard Andre Miller, one aspect came clearly into focus yesterday:
It won't be quick.
That was the sense of a source familiar with the discussion between Sixers president/general manager Ed Stefanski and Andre Miller's agent, Andy Miller, on the first day of the NBA's free-agency period.
Stefanski is not free to comment publicly until July 8, the first day deals can be finalized. With that in mind, available information is sketchy, but here's what the Daily News has gleaned so far:
Andy Miller, in a best-case scenario, would like a contract of 3 or 4 years, probably starting at a figure similar to the $10.3 million Andre Miller earned in 2008-09. The Sixers seem much more interested in 1 or 2 years, uncomfortable with a script in which they could be paying major dollars to an aging veteran at the same time their young core is maturing, reducing any salary-cap/luxury-tax flexibility they might have.
That's a big reason the Sixers have been exploring sign-and-trade scenarios, although the one being trumpeted by ESPN and various other outlets appears to have no legs.
In that speculation, the Sixers would sign Miller and trade him to the Portland Trail Blazers for point guard Steve Blake and forward Travis Outlaw. That probably makes sense for the Sixers, but probably not for the Blazers, who have zeroed in on Orlando Magic free-agent forward Hedo Turkoglu.
A Blazers source told the Portland Tribune and a Sixers source told the Daily News that the Miller report was incorrect. Blazers coach Nate McMillan was scheduled to visit Turkoglu last night, with Turkoglu traveling to Portland today to meet with front-office executives and check out the team's facilities.
Even though Andre Miller was arguably the Sixers' most important player in '08-09, there has been some concern about his age (he'll turn 34 in March) and his effectiveness defensively. Still, the Sixers' coaches seem to think that, in Eddie Jordan's pass-and-cut Princeton offense, they could use a two-guard front without one officially designated to run the point. For now, that would mean Lou Williams and first-round draft choice Jrue Holiday, backed by Willie Green and, at times, Andre Iguodala.
"They're doing the right thing, talking to him," Iguodala said yesterday after serving as a guest speaker at the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation's summer camp in Northeast Philly. "It's a tough situation. I've told him many times - we'd be on the court, someone would be shooting a free throw - and I'd be, like, ' 'Dre, are you coming back next year?' And he'd laugh. He knows we want him back . . . Many a game, we'd be walking down the court and I'd tell him, 'We've got to have you back, we've got to have you back.' And he'd start laughing."
Meanwhile, there is no reason to believe the Sixers have serious suitors for center Samuel Dalembert. With Elton Brand and Jason Smith returning from injuries and Marreese Speights entering his second season, the Sixers would be more than interested in shedding the 2 remaining years of Dalembert's contract. Dalembert has $12,125,694 and $13,012,823 remaining, plus a trade kicker that is worth about $3.8 million, about $300,000 more than what has previously been speculated.
On top of that, a team acquiring Dalembert would have to pay him the $3.8 million within 30 days, with $1.9 million applied to the team's cap in each of the 2 years of the contract. If the cap were to come down, that would also reduce the luxury-tax trigger point and could place a team perilously close to paying the dreaded dollar-for-dollar tax.
But all of the speculation about how Dalembert would be a nice fit for the Houston Rockets in the light of Yao Ming's foot injury, that premise doesn't seem to intrigue the Rockets. They, in fact, seem far more interested in using a midlevel exception to acquire Orlando Magic free agent Marcin Gortat or Detroit Pistons free agent Antonio McDyess.
But the Sixers' focus yesterday was on Andre Miller.
"Things would change [without him]," Iguodala said. "But I think coach Jordan, with his offense, we'll find a way. I think I would bring the ball up a little more, kind of like a two-guard set. We need [Andre]. Hopefully, it will work out."
The Sixers formally announced Mike O'Koren as associate head coach, plus the return of assistants Jim Lynam and Aaron McKie. O'Koren was on the New Jersey Nets' staff with new Sixers coach Eddie Jordan from 1999 to 2003, and served as Jordan's chief aide for five seasons with the Washington Wizards. O'Koren was a three-time All-America at North Carolina, and was the No. 6 overall pick of the Nets in 1980 . . . The Sixers, with World B. Free directing the clinics, will start their Summer Hoops Tour Monday at the Freedom Valley YMCA in West Norriton. *
Daily News sports writer Frank Seravalli contributed to this report.