Sixers want a LeBron James, Paul George-caliber star, but will they want the Sixers?
Brett Brown has repeatedly said another star is required to contend for a championship. Will the Sixers get one?
Think back to Brett Brown's May 11 press conference at the 76ers' facility in Camden.
The Sixers were two days removed from being eliminated by the Boston Celtics in five games of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The coach kept it real while sitting on the dais with a navy blue-and-white pinstriped shirt and dark blazer.
Brown chose not to be politically correct. He didn't say this past season's roster is NBA title worthy. Brown knew this summer's free agency class would be stacked with the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Paul George among the headliners. And he is determined to win an NBA title.
"I think a high-level free agent is required," said Brown, who later also assumed the interim general manager post. "I feel like we have the ability to attract one."
The coach cited the Sixers' uptempo style as exciting and the modern-day way to play. He talked about the team's culture and that organization personnel "treat people well here." And Brown mentioned the city of Philadelphia and its "sport-mad people."
He was speaking to James and George, the Sixers' top free-agent targets. Durant is expected to re-sign with the Golden State Warriors, who he's led to the past two NBA titles. He intends to sign a two-year max deal with a player option with the team, according to ESPN.
Meanwhile, George committed to resign with the Oklahoma City Thunder late Saturday night.
The free agency period started at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. Free agents cannot sign contracts until 12 p.m. Friday. So we'll find out shortly if James cherishes the Sixers as much as Brown does.
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The Sixers could have an outside chance of luring James, even though the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers appear to be the likely destinations for the four-time MVP. On Friday, he opted out of his $35.6 million player option with Cleveland for next season and said, according to ESPN, that he will not meet with the Cavaliers in free agency.
Meanwhile, George opted out of his $20.7 million player option with the Thunder for 2018-19. He is discussing with whether to take a one-, two- or three-year deal with Oklahoma City. George's hometown Lakers were also in the running to sign him even though he would have fit in perfectly playing alongside the Sixers all-star Joel Embiid and rookie of the year Ben Simmons.
"I think it's going to be difficult," Brown said of landing one of their A-list targets. "I think it's going to be a challenge. A tiny number of players [are A-listers]."
But to the Sixers' credit, they never deviated from their pursuit after Bryan Colangelo resigned as general manager on June 7 after being tied to damaging and anonymous Twitter accounts. The team is also trying to acquire two-time all-star Kawhi Leonard in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs.
Brown even said "star hunting" had something do with trading Mikal Bridges less than an hour after selecting him 10th overall on draft night. The Sixers sent the Villanova all-American to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for their No. 16 pick, Zhaire Smith, and the Miami Heat's unprotected 2021 first-round pick.
"I'm here to win a championship," Brown said. "We are star hunting … (and) you need assets to trade for a star. That unprotected pick is gold."
If they fail to lure James or George, the Sixers could try to re-sign JJ Redick and Amir Johnson for another season. The veterans had major roles in the team's success. They will try to build off last season's impressive 52-30 mark, highlighted by an NBA-record 16 straight wins to conclude the regular season.
Under that scenario, the team would go after max-level free agents in 2019.
But the Sixers learned in losing to the Celtics in the postseason that this past season's roster wasn't equipped to contend for a title. And contending for a title is the goal.
"You're trying to develop and hunt for stars now," Brown said. "I think we all wondered what is the timeline for Ben and Joel? The timeline is now. We feel good to go where we can play with the best now and we need some help.
"The whole notion of the star hunting, star chasing, star development is at the forefront of everything we do."
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