76ers

Moses Malone trade was just part of a dark day in Sixers history

Moses Malone trade was just part of a dark day in Sixers history

In 1985-86, the Sixers finished the season 54-28 and took the Milwaukee Bucks to seven games in the second round. Moses Malone, who missed the playoffs because of an orbital fracture, made his ninth straight All-Star team, posting 23.8 points and 11.8 rebounds a game.

Yet, a year removed from making it to the Eastern Conference Finals and only a couple years removed from winning a title, the Sixers dealt Malone — along with Terry Catledge and two first-round picks — to the Washington Bullets. In return, they got Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland. 

The Sixers also traded the No. 1 overall pick — that wound up being North Carolina big man Brad Daugherty — to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Roy Hinson.

''It's the most dramatic day of trading in the history of this organization,'' GM Pat Williams said at the time. ''We're far better equipped to deal at a championship level than 24 hours ago.''

Well, Williams was correct on the first part. The second part … not so much.

Williams was the architect of the 1982-83 title team and made plenty of outstanding moves during his tenure. But on June 16, 1986, he made two of the worst trades in franchise history on the same day.

But what if the Sixers never traded Malone? What if they simply held on to the No. 1 pick and selected Daugherty?

The Sixers were getting older. Julius Erving was 36. Maurice Cheeks was 30. Andrew Toney’s foot issues were severely hindering him. With the Malone trade, the Sixers believed they were getting younger and faster.

Robinson (131 games) and Hinson (105 games) weren’t Sixers for very long and didn’t have much impact. Ruland, who already had knee and shoulder issues, played five games with the team before retiring. He had a brief comeback with the Sixers in 1991 that didn’t last very long.

Malone, on the other hand, went on to make three more All-Star teams while Daugherty made five for the Cavs.

Instead of giving Dr. J a last dance of his own with Malone, Erving’s career ended after a first-round playoff exit in 1987. The 1987-88 season was disastrous as the Sixers finished 36-46 and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Toney played just 29 games that year and was forced to retire.

With a young Barkley leading the way and under coach Jim Lynam, the Sixers bounced back in 1988-89. They were swept by the Knicks in the first round, but there was hope in building around a budding star in Barkley.

While the team had varying degrees of success, Barkley was carrying far too much of the load in the early 90s, prompting him to eventually ask for a trade. There’s a thought that maybe it didn’t have to get to that point.

“I remember getting a phone call at about 6 in the morning — this is the day of the draft, I might add," Barkley said on the Lowe Post podcast. "It was from [Daily News writer] Phil Jasner in Philadelphia. And Phil calls me, he says, ‘Charles, can you talk?’ I said, ‘Phil, it’s like 6 in the morning.’ He says, ‘The Sixers made a trade. You need to talk about it. I need your opinion.’ I said, ‘Well, what’d they do?’ He said, ‘Traded the No. 1 pick in the draft. ... I said, ‘What? That’s all we got for the No. 1 pick, was Roy Hinson?' And then he says, ‘Oh, and they traded Moses to Washington.’”

“Moses was gonna be a great mentor [for Daugherty], because Moses was like a dad to me. ... That was the beginning of the end, where I could have actually had a really good team. ... That wrecked my entire Philadelphia career. ... That was the biggest disaster of my career, plain and simple.”

It’s fair to wonder what could’ve been if Malone was around for Erving’s final season. Perhaps you get a hyper-motivated version of Malone — miffed that he missed the playoffs the prior season and wanting to allow Dr. J to ride off into the sunset. Maybe he has one more prolific playoff run in him.

This would’ve also allowed Malone to keep mentoring Barkley and also a young Daugherty. As Malone declined, Daugherty’s role could’ve increased. Going into the 1990s, you would’ve been armed with two young All-Stars and arguably the best frontcourt in the NBA at that time.

Maybe that’s not enough to overcome Michael Jordan and the Bulls during that time. Daugherty was also forced into early retirement because of back issues.

But perhaps it’s enough to convince Barkley to stay. Maybe with Barkley and Daugherty in the fold you could attract better talent and maybe make a trade for the right guard to complement them.

Instead, Barkley was traded to the Suns and the Sixers embarked on one of the worst stretches in franchise history. After losing to Jordan in the second round in 1991, the Sixers wouldn’t make the playoffs again until Allen Iverson and Larry Brown led them there in 1998-99.

Could they have avoided that swoon if they held on to Malone a little bit longer? Could Daugherty’s presence have made the team formidable enough for Barkley to never want to leave?

We’ll never know the answers, but it’s fair to wonder.

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Sixers release hype video of sorts before NBA restart at Disney World

Sixers release hype video of sorts before NBA restart at Disney World

NBA teams don’t usually release hype videos 65 games into the regular season.

The Sixers did on Thursday, however. That seems an appropriate way to label the video the team put out on social media ahead of its departure for Orlando for the NBA’s planned resumption. It contains footage of players working out at the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, during the NBA’s Phase 2 protocol, as well as some of the more confident remarks from players during video conference calls with reporters over the last week. Tobias Harris chucking a medicine ball against a wall is an especially striking image. 

“The way that I look at it is we have another opportunity,” Al Horford says over footage of him sinking a jumper. “I believe that our group is built for the playoffs.”

Horford is among the players who noted the NBA’s hiatus was beneficial in terms of health. He’s also far from the first Sixer to insist this season that the team is constructed to succeed in the postseason.

The 39-26 Sixers are sixth in the Eastern Conference. They’re scheduled to resume play on Aug. 1 against the Pacers (see game-by-game predictions).

Though the video is a bit less energetic and more reserved than the typical hype video — which makes sense as the NBA attempts to play through a pandemic — it does convey a belief that the team’s inability to meet expectations before the hiatus is no longer relevant. 

If the league’s health and safety measures are effective, we’ll get to see if that’s actually the case. 

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Sixers may be counting on youth in a big way at Disney World

Sixers may be counting on youth in a big way at Disney World

Normally once the playoffs start, coaches will look to players with experience. They want battle-tested veterans that have been through the rigors of an NBA postseason.

For the Sixers, there is a chance that they’ll be counting on three players 23 years old or younger. Two of them have never played a single playoff game while the other has played less than 40 career postseason minutes.

Yet Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton have all played significant roles for the Sixers at one time or another this season. Will they be ready if their numbers are called in the playoffs?

The Sixers will have to hope their young contributors don’t think too much about the situation they’re in and just play basketball.

You don’t know — no team knows what they look like as a team,” Thybulle said. “I know what I’ve been doing individually in my workouts, I know that I feel good, my shot looks good, I feel like I’m in shape, but in terms of what that means for the 76ers or for any other team in the league, I think it’s fairly unknown. I think for us, for me, it’s all about the challenge of hitting the ground running.

Throughout the course of his rookie year, Thybulle has done well to take things as they come. Whether it was being asked to guard Kemba Walker on opening night or start for a stretch when Joel Embiid was out, Thybulle has been thrown into the fire more than once this season.

Though he’s had his ups and downs and his playing time has fluctuated, Thybulle proved to be a strong and disruptive defender. He’s one of only eight players in the league to have at least 80 steals and 40 blocks. If a guard or wing is giving the Sixers an exceptionally hard time in the playoffs, Brett Brown could look to Thybulle to help mitigate the damage.

If the Sixers are in need of shooting, Brown would likely turn to Korkmaz. The Turkish wing has had somewhat of an improbable season. After the Sixers struck out on signing veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver this summer, GM Elton Brand circled back to Korkmaz, who was reportedly on the verge of heading back overseas to play. 

Korkmaz has rewarded the organization by providing some ridiculously hot shooting that has bailed the Sixers’ sometimes clunky offense out of jams. He leads the team in threes made and is shooting 39.7 percent from three, the second-best mark on the team.

We were having this conversation every time with Coach Brown,” Korkmaz said. “Every time he just keeps telling me I just need to keep doing what I did all season and keep doing it for the playoffs in Orlando. Nothing changed. Also, we know playoffs in Orlando is going to be more physical than the regular season. We all expect that and we’re all ready for that and we’re all working for that. And Brett said to me just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to be an important piece, and I’m trying to get ready for it.

Brown had a similar message for Milton, who may have the upper hand on Thybulle and Korkmaz because of his diverse skillset. If Brown is truly interested in unleashing Ben Simmons as a screener and roller, Milton could be key in tapping into that look as the primary ball handler.

Unlike Thybulle and Korkmaz, Milton’s true opportunity didn’t come until later in the season. After a few solid performances before the All-Star break, Milton was told by Brown that he wasn’t going to be in the rotation with everyone healthy and the additions of Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III.

Milton simply waited for his next chance to play and got it when Ben Simmons went down with a nerve impingement in his lower back. The second-year player took over as the team’s starting point guard and crushed the opportunity, averaging 17.8 points and shooting a blistering 60.4 percent from three over his last nine games.

I definitely feel more confident,” Milton said. “I’d say it’s probably stemming from the fact that playing those last nine games or whatever with all those guys out, it gave me the opportunity to kind of go out there and test things and see what could work, and really explore my game. I feel like for any player, when they’re given an opportunity to do something like that, to see what works and have freedoms, I feel like you’re going to see growth anywhere. I definitely feel good, I feel confident, and I’m excited.

None of these players have a rotational spot locked up. Burks, Robinson and Mike Scott have the advantage of experience. Newcomer Ryan Broekhoff may even force his way into the mix. Brown has said he'd like to have his playoff rotation down to nine, which should create healthy competition and perhaps another "quiet tournament" during the eight seeding games.

In an unprecedented situation at Disney World, the Sixers hope this trio of young players doesn’t concern themselves with going into uncharted territory and focuses more on doing the things that got them here. 

At the end of the day, it’s still basketball.

“We’re finding ourselves in a situation where [the playoffs will be different than usual],” Thybulle said, “so I think it’s going to be new for everyone, even vets who have been part of the playoffs, trying to get a feel for what this is going to be like. But I’m open to the challenge and I’m excited for what’s in store.”

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