Jul 012010

July 1 Philadelphia Daily News

“The landscape of the NBA’s Eastern Conference is about to change dramatically, though your local team will most likely be left standing on the sidelines while rosters change and superstars get new addresses.

At midnight last evening, the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh became unrestricted free agents. If that isn’t interesting enough, consider that such high-profile organizations as the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat are in good monetary positions to land one, or two, of the big names, which could lead to a franchise turnaround.

“I think when you have people talking about the NBA it’s always a good thing,” said Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski. “And with this whole LeBron stuff and all the big free agents, I’ve never seen anything like it. Any time you have something going on like this, with this magnitude, it’s good for the league.”

Teams such as the Knicks (about $34.5 million in cap space) have been waiting and preparing for this date for more than a couple of years, dumping as much salary as possible in hopes of being able to lure one or two of the top three to the Big Apple. New Jersey ($27.1 million), coming off a dismal 12-win season, could land a big name and ride him right into their new Brooklyn arena, though that won’t come until a 2-year rental in Newark. (Sound attractive to a free agent?)

With Derrick Rose at the point, Chicago ($29.9 million) would be an attractive site for anyone, and if Miami doesn’t re-sign Wade, it would have the ability to sign James and Bosh.

All four of those teams appear on the verge of major changes. Two of the four (New York and New Jersey) are in the Sixers’ division. So, what does it mean to a Sixers organization that has been revitalized a bit of late by selecting Evan Turner with the second overall pick in last week’s draft and the hiring of affable Doug Collins as head coach?

“Well, with getting the second pick recently and hiring Doug Collins, we are very happy with the way things have been going lately,” Stefanski said. “We just aren’t in a position this year that other teams are [to go after high-priced free agents]. That’s just the way it is. This is a year teams have forecasted for quite some time. Teams dump salaries to get to this spot. Whatever happens, some teams are going to be happy and some not so happy. New York, in particular, has made moves for this. But you won’t know until it’s over.”

Coming off a 27-win season, change was a must for the Sixers, though they had little maneuverability. After next season, the organization will gain some cap space as the contracts of Willie Green ($3.98 million) and Jason Kapono ($6.6 million) will expire. The Sixers did deal Sam Dalembert ($12.2 million) to the Kings, ridding themselves of his big contract, though it would have expired after next year. But, they took on the final year of the rookie contract of Spencer Hawes ($2.97 million this year) and the $13.5 million owed Andres Nocioni over the next two seasons ($6.85 million this season, $6.65 mill next), the two players they acquired for Dalembert.”

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