Not once, but twice!
Imagine that—arguably the greatest individual talent ever to play basketball was traded from the Warriors to the Sixers for Connie Dierking, Paul Neumann, Lee Shaffer and cash before going from the 76ers to the Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff. The first trade came a season after Wilt led the league in scoring with nearly 35 points per game and 23 rebounds, while the second one came two seasons after the Sixers won their first NBA title (third for a Philly team) and the big man went for 24-24 and led the league in assists.
But just like that, he was gone. Poof!
Trading away Wilt Chamberlain was hardly the most dubious deal in the history of Philadelphia NBA teams. Nope, not even close. Ever hear the story about how Maurice Cheeks was traded in August of 1989 to the Spurs, only Mo didn’t know about it until he arrived back at his house and found a reporter there waiting at his doorstep. Go ahead and ask Michael Barkann about that one sometime because he was the guy who broke the news to Cheeks.
No word if Michael B tracked down Christian Welp and David Wingate, too, to tell them they were packaged with Cheeks to get Johnny Dawkins and Jay Vincent.
Charles Barkley was traded simply because he had outgrown Philadelphia and probably would have been arrested for aggravated assault on Armen Gilliam if he had to stay another day longer. The Barkley deal returned the Sixers Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry, which is the basketball equivalent to trading Curt Schilling for Travis Lee, Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla and Nelson Figueroa.
Sometimes trades have to be made for the sanity of everyone who remains. Barkley and Schilling had to go for just that very reason—we needed to stay sane and so did they. However, on the scale of trades that should have warranted the state to step in and send owner Harold Katz upstate to the nervous hospital for a little vaca, the deal on draft day of 1986 is an all-timer.
Whenever I think about the Deal of ’86, I think of it two different ways. In one I look at it kind of like Robert E. Lee meeting Ulysses Grant in the courthouse at Appomattox in 1865 to sign the papers signaling the end of the Civil War. Then Lee slowly rode off on that white horse of his and wandered around in the wilderness until it was time to check out.
The other thing I think of is the Saturday Night Live sketch from the ‘90s when Kevin Nealon and Victoria Jackson play interviewers who ask dumb politicians deftly worded questions about just how far they can shove their heads into their derriere. Always gets a giggle, though in real life it’s not so funny.
Think about it—in one day the Sixers traded Hall-of-Famer Moses Malone and solid frontcourt man Terry Catledge to Washington and then sent the No. 1 overall pick of the deep (yet cursed) 1986 draft to Cleveland. The pick turned out to be perennial All-Star Brad Daugherty. Maybe the Sixers somehow knew that Daugherty’s Hall-of-Fame career would be cut short at age 28 because of back injuries? Or maybe they didn’t want a guy who got 21-and-11 during the last four years of his career?
Either way, the Sixers turned away Moses Malone, Brad Daugherty and Terry Catledge, plus two first-round draft picks and got back Roy Hinson, Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland…
No, there’s no punch line. That really happened!
I still can’t believe the Spectrum wasn’t overrun with an angry mob out of an old movie like It’s a Wonderful Life with folks screaming for Harold Katz as if he were the miserly Old Man Potter. Why weren’t there riots?
So it is above the din of discontent that we recall the inglorious days of yore when our NBA team out-smarted itself and ruined things for a while. In the aftermath of Wilt going to the Lakers, the Sixers set the record for the worst season in the history of the sport with just 9 wins in 1973. And, perhaps, maybe it’s even reasonable to think that the Sixers have never really recovered from Draft Day of ’86. Why not? In addition to losing two Hall-of-Fame quality players, they also gave up two first-round draft picks and picked up Jeff Ruland, who went on to play just 18 games over the course of five years. Current Sixers’ GM Ed Stefanski knows that if he puts his hand over an open flame and keeps it there for a bit, it’s not going to end well.
Maybe. But then again, maybe not. After all, at 20-33 these Sixers are going nowhere fast. They are too good to benefit from the draft and too bad to do anything of note in the playoffs. Moreover, two players—Elton brand and Andre Iguodala—have contracts that aren’t very conducive to a team hoping to rebuild in the current salary-capped NBA. I think I called it NBA DMZ a few days ago. Basketball limbo might be a better term.
With the majority of fans hoping the team would unload a valuable player, but cap-unfriendly guy like Iguodala for any number of teams we heard about on the rumor mill (and confirmed by the GM) in order to acquire the coveted expiring contract so favored in these crazy times, it was funny to hear the reaction to an actual deal. No, funny is not the right word there because it implies that a good time was had by all. Let’s just say it was fascinating to couch the reaction from the fans against the words from Stefanski. See, the GM thinks his team is underachieving and isn’t as bad as the 20-33 record indicates.
No argument here.
However, if the GM makes a deal he doesn’t want to give up Iguodala for Jeff Ruland. Sure-and-steady Eddie wants some talent back in a trade, too. Why wouldn’t he? Good for him.
“For us to take back expiring contracts for talent didn’t make much sense, and it would not have gotten us close to a lot of the team [much further under the cap],” Stefanski explained.
Fair enough. So when the only deal at the trade deadline is one which the Sixers sent Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and a second-round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Jodie Meeks and center Francisco Elson, well, let’s just say it feels a bit underwhelming. In fact, it feels a bit disappointing, too. I mean, think of all those little kids out there talking about, “Roy-al with Cheese!” and sporting those Primoz jerseys with ol’ number whatever he was on the back.
Nobody ever thinks about the kids.
In light of the mega-deal, I solicited opinions from the man on the street (via Twitter) for thoughts on the deadline blockbuster… this is what I got back:
A fellow named Robert from Philadelphia asked, “Who are the Sixers?”
Oh come on, we know… but do we really know them. They never let us get close enough.
A man who calls himself Kevin from Philadelphia seemed most distraught, writing: “Just when I got my Royal Ivey jersey...”
Isn’t that how it always works?
A guy named Dan from Delaware astutely pointed out that Francisco Elson speaks five different language, including his native tongue, Dutch, says this fact will help him in Philly: “He can translate DNP-CD however he likes.”
After that the responses just got weird and I kind of checked out after the one from a guy who describes himself as a “Philly Phanatic,” who asked: “Is the real Ed Stefanski in a cave somewhere and actually Billy King has pulled a 'Face Off' switcheroo?”
When we start comparing the 2009-10 Sixers to a Travolta/Cage vehicle, it's time to stop.
Yes, the trading deadline can send us all off the deep end, but at least this time we didn’t have to go for the torches and pitchforks to storm whatever it is to strom.