New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was fired over the weekend, as the Devils spiral towards the worst record in the NHL's Metropolitan Division. Shero, a vaunted GM with a Stanley Cup to his name and roster-building experience, was expected to oversee the Devils' next few years of building towards something larger. Instead, he's out of a job mid-season.
Josh Harris, who is a managing partner of both the Devils and the Sixers, didn't mince words on Sunday when explaining the decision to move on from Shero.
"We're very committed to winning," Harris said in a press conference over the weekend, per ESPN. "We weren't winning enough."
If the Devils, who weren't expected to compete for anything significant this year, weren't winning enough for Harris, it's hard to imagine the Sixers are currently scratching his itch for wins. And it makes you wonder: is Elton Brand's job in danger?
After Monday night's loss to the Pacers, the Sixers are squarely the No. 6 team in the Eastern Conference. They've lost six of eight, are on pace for just 50 wins, and have by far the worst road record of the six actually worthwhile teams in the East.
Like the Phillies of last season, the question becomes how to parcel the blame between the front office, the coaching staff, and the players. Ben Simmons still can't shoot, Brett Brown has shown an inability to turn a team rife with talent into a consistent winner, and Elton Brand built the clunky, inelegant monstrosity you see in half-court sets each night.
It feels, right now, like Brand deserves the finger-pointing.
Night in and night out, the Sixers look like a jammed-up team without an offensive identity in a league obsessed with scoring, and that problem falls on the man who constructed this roster in the first place. It's not a surprise that the Sixers need shooters and players who can create their own offense — those problems existed last season — and yet, after a very expensive offseason, the same needs remain.
Brand has been GM for roughly 16 months. He traded for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, offloading picks and lesser pieces in the process, then moved Butler and brought in Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Whether Brand's moves have actually made the Sixers any better, though, isn't apparent.
They've been better against important teams — regular wins over the Celtics and the Bucks can paper over most problems — but they haven't been good enough in between the marquee matchups, including losing 14 of 21 road games this season, to put themselves in a good spot come playoff time. We know the Sixers can beat the Bucks and Celtics on a given night. Can they do it four times, without home court advantage?
With 10 games before the NBA's Feb. 6 trade deadline, Brand has one more chance to make a move (or two), which he likes to do, and possibly save the Sixers' season.
If the Sixers aren't in the East's Top 4, they will lose in the second round again, and someone will finally have to answer. A player like Davis Bertans could help, and a player like Bogdan Bogdanovic certainly would. But if they don't arrive, or if they aren't enough, it's because Brand waited too long to fill his team's most glaring holes.
It feels unlikely that Harris would let Brand loose after a year and a half, but it also feels unlikely that he's OK with watching the capital he invested in the Sixers' win-now build go to waste.