July 03, 2017
Vince Lombardi once famously proclaimed: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” Years later, Bill Parcells added: “You are what your record says you are.” Kobe Bryant completed the trifecta by saying: “Winning takes precedence over all. There’s no gray area.”
After four years of ignoring those wise words, the Sixers have no choice now but to embrace them. The signing of a marquee free agent, J.J. Redick over the weekend was a loud statement that tomorrow has finally arrived, that winning is indeed the only thing.
The meaning behind Redick’s decision to, as he tweeted, “Trust the process,” was multi-faceted. First, he signed a one-year, $23-million contract. He represents the present, not the future. Second, he chose to play here. That’s a clear endorsement of the current state of the team. And third, he can shoot. Really, really shoot.
Adding Redick’s scoring touch to the marksmanship of No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz and soon-to-sign Turkish sharpshooter Furkan Korkmaz gives the Sixers something they haven’t had, the ability to put the ball in the basket from anywhere in their offense.
With Joel Embiid dominating the inside and all of those quality shooters on the perimeter, there is no reason to hedge our bets any longer. Very simply, nothing less than a winning record is acceptable next season.
That’s right – 42 wins, at the very least.
Now, with the box office already bustling, you can bet the Sixers will try to tamp down expectations because this insecure organization has been doing that for four tedious years now. The less aggressive the public goal, the less pressure there will be to achieve it.
And prepare yourself for the Sam Hinkie brigade – including an army of media devotees – to buy into that propaganda, defining 30 or 35 wins as a worthy accomplishment. It is not. The loyal fans of this maddening team have endured four of the worst seasons any team has ever had. They need a winning team. They deserve one. Now.
Granted, there are still many questions. Will Embiid finally stay healthy? Will Ben Simmons transition smoothly into his odd role as a 6-10 point guard? Will Dario Saric continue to grow into a star? Will Fultz have an immediate impact? Will coach Brett Brown show he really does know how to win in the NBA?
But none of those issues should cloud the basic point that Redick’s arrival signals the end of this annoying and vastly overrated process. He is not a $23-million Band-Aid. At 33, Redick came here to win. He showed faith in the direction of a team that has won 38 games over the past two seasons. He believes.
And so should everybody else. This is not about five years from now, or three. This is about being good next season, then really good, and then a contender for the NBA championship. After all, that’s what the process is supposed to be about, isn’t it?
The good news for long-suffering fans like me – I have loved the Sixers since Wilt Chamberlain was dominating the game half a century ago – is that there is no valid excuse for bad basketball any more.
Vince Lombardi, Bill Parcells and Kobe Bryant were right when they said there’s nothing as important as winning.
And now, finally, it’s time for the Sixers to do just that.
If you were dumb enough – like me – to hope for something enlightening or encouraging during the rare media briefing last Friday night in New York by forgotten Phillies president Andy MacPhail, you can forget it. The sad truth is, his words were as depressing as his team’s pitiful play this season.
MacPhail, part of a neat bait-and-switch move the Phils made when he was hired, has abdicated most of the grunt work in rebuilding the roster to unproven GM Matt Klentak, and he isn’t even trying to hide that reality any more. Was it really only two years ago when MacPhail was introduced as the savior of the organization?
The most worrisome comment MacPhail made was his blasé response to the dreadful acquisitions Klentak has made so far. Clay Buckholz ($13 million), Michael Saunders ($9 million) and Joaquin Benoit ($7.5 million) have all been busts, and the new deal for Odubel Herrera (five years, $30 million) is pure lunacy.
Yet, here’s what MacPhail said: “If you’re fishing in one-year, free-agent waters you’re not going to bat 1.000.”
Bat 1.000? Klentak has the worst team in baseball, by far, and his boss is making excuses for all of his mistakes? Let’s not forget that the novice GM also acquired washout Charlie Morton ($8 million) the previous winter, along with J.P Arencibia, Ernesto Frieri, Andrew Bailey, Edward Mujica, Jimmy Paredes and Will Venable – all duds.
At this point, with the productive additions of Pat Neshek, Daniel Nava and Howie Kendrick (when he’s not injured), Klentak is lucky if he’s batting .200.
More and more, it appears Klentak is making all of the big roster decisions, while MacPhail is enjoying a lucrative semi-retirement. Where’s the aggressive wheeler-dealer style that earned MacPhail his reputation in the early 1990s in Minnesota? Why isn’t he following through on his promise to preside over the rebuild?
“This year has been harder than I thought it was going to be,” he said. “I will tell you the truth: We're having the year this year that I thought we were going to have last year. I was really prepared for '16 to be dreadful.”
Because I have no life, I combed through the transcript of MacPhail’s introductory news conference exactly 24 months ago this week, and his depiction of the team’s immediate future did not include the word dreadful, or anything close to it. In fact, he said his commitment was to win “sooner, as opposed to later.”
Today, Andy MacPhail has the worst team in baseball.
Does he even care?
The release last weekend of Dorial Green-Beckham was a surprise to no one, but there is a lingering doubt now about how Eagles coach Doug Pederson felt when one of his favorite wide receivers was cut.
You see, Pederson has been Green-Beckham’s biggest supporter, to the point where it became almost a winter obsession. Whenever a question arose about the revamped pass-catching corps, the coach was emphatic in including the big, underachieving wide receiver in the conversation.
I can remember interviewing Pederson shortly after the Eagles had added Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith through free agency, and Pederson raised eyebrows everywhere when he extolled the positive effect their additions would have on “DGB.”
DGB? We all assumed – correctly, it turned out – that Green-Beckham was a goner, especially after GM Howie Roseman added wide receivers Mack Collins of North Carolina and Shelton Gibson of West Virginia during the draft. In fact, pretty much the only person still bringing DGB’s name up after that was Pederson.
The first sign that someone – Roseman? – had a lesser opinion of DGB than Pederson was at the recent OTAs, when Green-Beckham complained about his diminished role. Based on Pederson’s rosy comments about DGB, it’s highly unlikely that the coach is the one who wrote the big wide receiver out of the script.
Of course, the bigger issue – one that keeps coming up during this offseason – is just how involved Pederson is in developing the roster. Remember, the coach was compared to a potted plant during the three days of the draft here in April. He had no obvious role.
More and more, it appears that Pederson is going to have to take this improved Eagles team and win at least half the games next season – nine or 10 would be much safer – or he will be standing next to DGB in the employment line next year at this time.
And finally …
• As a former elite goaltender himself, Flyers GM Ron Hextall has had a very hard time filling the position. He just signed Brian Elliott to a two-year, $5.5-million deal, replacing Steve Mason. Elliott, 32, had a 2.55 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage last season in Colorado. Mason, 29, was 2.66 and 9.08. This is supposed to be an upgrade?
• Now that Scott Kingery has finally arrived in Lehigh, can we all agree that the Phillies phenom stayed too long at Reading? After hitting one homer in his final 20 games in AA, the second baseman blasted four in his first seven games in AAA. Kingery is the best prospect in the organization – by far. The only person who can stop him now is GM Matt Klentak.
• Quietly, the family of the late Joe Paterno dropped its lawsuit last week challenging the NCAA investigation that found the legendary Penn State coach complicit in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The family said it had “accomplished its goals,” even though there was no financial settlement. OK, I give up. Other than keeping this hideous story in the news for two more years, what did they achieve?
• Phil Jackson is the laughingstock of sports after finally getting fired by the Knicks, so it’s probably not fashionable to point out that, over the past three years, New York actually won 24 more games than the Sixers. Yet, somehow, Jackson is a moron and Sam Hinkie is a genius. Go figure.
• Chip Kelly, an ex-Eagles coach with an open disdain for the media, is now a member of the media, having signed on as a college analyst for ESPN. Last week he heaped praise on anthem-sitter Colin Kaepernick and dismissed his efforts to trade for Marcus Mariota. If Kelly is this boring in the broadcast booth, he’ll be looking for another coaching job very soon.