TOMORROW, TEAMS can start signing free agents in what is sure to an all-out blitz, kind of like the Black Friday of the NBA.
For the 76ers, though, there won't be any rush to the sale, no pushing and shoving to get the hot item. They have just two items on their list - Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes, restricted free agents who, of course, were here last season.
The Sixers most likely will sign those two, plus rookies Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen, bringing their roster to 14 players under contract. Maybe another player could be added, depending on how much they pay out to Young and Hawes. Maybe they'll trade a player (Marreese Speights?) for a draft pick and wipe away that money. Maybe they also will sign a player to the veteran minimum (Tony Battie?). Perhaps the roster, with the exception of a few deep reserves, will pretty much look the same as it did last year.
Right now, the Sixers' salary is at $56 million, $2 million below the salary cap. They can spend up to $70 million on their own players (Young and Hawes) without being taxed. Should they go over that number, it's time to pay the tax man.
That's why the team will wait. They'll sit back, see what other offers Young may or may not get. Whatever he is offered, the Sixers can match, which they would most certainly do, if that contract is "reasonable," according to president Rod Thorn.
The bustle most likely will start should a team make an offer to Young. The Sixers would then have 3 days to match.
"We are trying, having conversations on a daily basis with the agents of our two guys," Thorn said. "We haven't come to a meeting of the minds, yet. We'll keep having conversations."
Yesterday, Young's agent, Jim Tanner, said in a statement: "Thad would be thrilled to get a deal done with Philadelphia and we are continuing to engage in serious and constructive conversations with the Sixers to that end . . . Thad is coveted throughout the league. He has received interest from other teams that we will continue to explore as the market develops."
The Sixers made qualifying offers to both Young and Hawes last season, both for about $4 million. Even if they don't sign offer sheets, they could play this year with the Sixers and then become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. That may be a good move for Hawes, probably not for Young, who is looking to get a big contract now.
And as much as Young wants to be here, the organization wants him back even more.
"Guys can't sign until [tomorrow], so you don't know what the numbers out there could be," said coach Doug Collins. "Other teams have a lot of money under the cap so they could be trying to get one of the big free agents. If they lose those, do they throw crazy money at someone else [like Young]? From our standpoint, we have to sit back and see how it starts falling. We have plans and preparations. But you don't know how much players like Nene or Tyson Chandler are going to get, what kind of trades are going to happen. All of a sudden, there could be a ton of activity and you don't know how things may play out.
"But I feel confident we're going to get him back, I just don't know when. Rod is in the process of negotiating and seeing where the numbers are. Thad is a real key to our team, he makes us unique. Our team is full of unselfish players. Thad is one of the top five players on our team, but he and Lou [Williams] both accept coming off the bench knowing that it is the best thing for our team to succeed. We don't want to lose players like that. Our bench was one of the reasons for our success last year and a reason we got better as the year went on."
The way this appears to be playing out, it looks as though the Sixers will not use the "amnesty clause" on anyone this year. The clause allows a team to pay out a player's contract and have it wiped off their salary-cap figure. It appears that if the club is going to do that, it won't be until next season, when they also could option out of Andres Nocioni's $7.5 million, be rid of Speights' $3.8 million, and perhaps not have Hawes on the books.
But that's the future. Tomorrow begins the now, the second year under Collins' tutelage. An incomplete roster will take the court, with the organization hoping two more regulars will be joining the fray in the near future.
The schedule for training camp still has not been released by the team. Two practices are expected to be held Friday on Hawk Hill. Saint Joseph's hosts a game at noon on Saturday, when the Sixers probably will have a night practice . . . The Sixers announced that for all 13 home games in January, tickets in the mezzanine level will be $17.76 or less, with no online fees if purchased on Sixers.com. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.