Julius Erving shook hands and took pictures and reminisced about the old days. He was at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday to be honored with several other members of the Sixers' 1982-83 championship squad.
Erving, who is also a strategic adviser for the franchise, didn’t just discuss the 30-year anniversary of the team’s last title. Before the Sixers faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in the final home game of the season, he also spent a good while evaluating the current crop of players. His assessment wasn’t glowing.
“I think there’s probably room for more communication on issues relevant to the franchise right now,” Erving said. “We’re really in a bit of a hole. It’s almost like starting over. You don’t want to totally start all over, especially after the last two years and so much was accomplished. And now [Andrew] Bynum not working out. There are potential deals out there. I wouldn’t mind being a consultant or assisting in trying to bring in one of the free agents. And the vetting of that of that situation would be important to have another opinion on.”
A year ago, in a 66-game lockout-shortened campaign, the Sixers had 35 regular season victories. To match that mark in a full 82-game season this year, the team would have to win each of its remaining three games.
When asked whether the Sixers should “wash their hands” of Bynum and “move on,” Erving had some critical comments about the center who hasn't played a single minute for the franchise. Bynum – who had season-ending surgery on both knees in mid-March – made about $16.5 million this year.
“Coming here over the course of the year multiple times, but not really being in the room, I don’t know what the total conversation is,” Erving said. “I know what the net result is. And the net result is Robert Parish’s old number: zero zero. So we have not benefited one degree. I guess he has.
“I think if he’s not here, you’re going to free up a lot of money. Money talks in the NBA. Washington and Lincoln can’t play the corners for you, but they can get you someone to play the corners. And we need someone to play the corners for us and play the middle for us. It’s going to be costly. If the Bynum situation is going to be one of uncertainty for another year, I don’t think the organization should stand for that, and I don’t think the fans are going to stand for it.”
Erving was correct: Filling the Sixers’ various voids will be expensive. The problem will be the team’s limited cap space. Even if the Sixers don’t re-sign Bynum, Nick Young and Dorrell Wright – all of whom will be unrestricted free agents in the offseason – the team will still have about $46 million in salary committed for next year. If the NBA salary cap is around $60 million as expected, that would leave the team only about $14 million to play with – and the Sixers would still have to pay their first-round draft pick, which means they’d be looking at something closer to $11 million in available free agent funds. That isn’t much, and it certainly isn’t enough Washingtons and Lincolns to plug the corner and paint gaps with high-profile players.