A LOOK AROUND the 76ers' locker room before their game against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday and every player on the roster was there. Some were receiving treatment in an adjoining room, but all 13 players were visible, which begged the question: Which of these players will be here next season?
They have a roster splattered with expiring contracts, a player with $6.2 million left for next year and a qualifying offer for $6.6 million for 2014-15 who had major knee surgery a couple of months ago (Jason Richardson), and various other players who will no doubt be subjects of trades.
After the Andrew Bynum fiasco, there appears to be another summer ahead of rebuilding, or at least revamping. And that's just with the players.
It appears clear now that there also will be a coaching search. A Thursday story in the Inquirer cited multiple sources saying the organization hopes coach Doug Collins does not return for the final year of his contract. Since taking over ownership of the team in September 2011, majority owner Josh Harris and CEO Adam Aron have repeatedly stated their desire to keep Collins as their coach and, before this season, added an extra year to his original 3-year deal, which would take the coach through next year. Admittedly not basketball minds, the ownership has put much of their trust in Collins on the basketball operations side of things. So it's very puzzling as to why anyone would say that the higher-ups are hoping Collins doesn't return.
An NBA source reached Thursday said the decision of staying or going is up to Collins, that Harris and Co. are on board with him being the coach of the team "for as long as he wants." That stance hasn't seemed to change since the beginning of the season.
But through all this, one thing seems to be clear - Collins most likely won't be coming back as head coach next season. This type of talk usually doesn't arise unless a change is going to happen. Should Collins quit, he would leave the last year of his salary, reportedly at $4.5 million, on the table. No one wants to leave that kind of money out there. But coming back at age 62 and overseeing yet another rebuilding year certainly can't be enticing to Collins, though, again, management would welcome him back with open arms.
When contacted Thursday, the Sixers said there would be no comment from either Harris or Aron and that the two will talk on April 18, the day after the team's final game.
When Collins was announced as coach in May 2010, he said that his goal was to leave the organization better than what it was when he arrived as coach. After a 3-13 start to his initial season, the team rallied and finished the season at 41-41, captured the final playoff spot in the East and played an exciting series against the Miami Heat, losing in five.
After a long lockout that delayed the beginning of the season by almost 2 months, the Sixers stormed out to a 20-9 start before leveling off and finishing the season 35-31. As a seventh seed they knocked off the injury-riddled Chicago Bulls in the first round and took the Boston Celtics to seven games in the next. Meeting with the media the following day, Collins and management stated that changes were coming as they felt the roster had "maxed out." After moves that included buying out Elton Brand and not re-signing free agent Lou Williams, the team made the monstrous four-team trade for Bynum, costing them Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a draft pick.
This appeared to be the season Collins was talking about when he said he wanted to bring the organization to relevance again. But with Bynum never seeing the court and injuries unsettling the team throughout, they've managed just 31 wins.
So a season of promise soon will roll into an offseason that probably will not include negations with Bynum (they can't, can they?), but will consist of multiple player moves and, it appears now, a coaching search.