(No Longer) La Salle's Aaric Murray Announces Intent to Transfer UPDATED

(No Longer) La Salle's Aaric Murray Announces Intent to Transfer UPDATED

In the kind of story that may motivate us to create a new "in a
completely unsurprising turn of events" tag, former La Salle University
center Aaric Murray has announced his intent to leave Coach John
Giannini's Explorers following the completion of his sophomore year.
Widely recruited as a high school senior out of Glen Mills by a number
of top programs, Murray ultimately chose La Salle after developing what
he deemed a special bond with Dr. G during the process. As a matter of
related fact, Murray and Giannini even filmed a piece for this
season's Comcast Sportsnet City 6 College Basketball Preview special, a
segment meant to highlight the strength of their relationship. Methinks
the duo doth pretend too much.

Strains in the continued viability of such a pairing were easily
visible all year. Each wild shouting fit from the coach was met with, at
least what appeared to be, a continually greater level of disinterest
from the player. Following the Explorer's ouster in the second round of
this year's Atlantic 10 conference tournament, a fellow attendee of G's
post-game presser leaned over to me and whispered, "Do you find it at
all strange that he refuses to mention Murray's name in discussing his
plans for next year?" Now, just two weeks later, it does indeed appear
as though the writing was on the wall.  Comments from John Giannini and more on the future of Aaric Murray after the jump...

In a piece from the Inquirer's Ray Parrillo:

"This
was a very difficult decision for me, and I wish Aaric the very best
for his future," head coach Dr. John Giannini said. "I know Aaric always
tried to do his best for La Salle, and we did all that we could to help
him as a person and as a basketball player. We will continue to support
Aaric in this process of finding another university."

Giannini
said Thursday night Murray was given his release at this time so he
could maximize his options as he begins the search for another school.
He said Murray plans to complete the spring semester at La Salle.

Parrillo goes onto to aptly remind us that regardless of Murray's
next point of harbor, he will be by rule required to sit out a full
season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Such a scenario can only be
circumvented due to a change in a program's coaching staff or as
a result of health issues incurred by a student-athlete. Murray
qualifies for neither exception. 

So, where's next for the 6'10 center with averages of 15.2 points and
7.7 rebounds per game in the 2010-11 season? West Virginia, Florida,
Kansas, Oklahoma State and Auburn are all rumored to be interested, and
are all a massive upgrades from his former digs on Olney Ave (no
offense, guys). Rumblings are also beginning to grow louder that Murray
is expected to send an application to another area school, one located
on North Broad St. If you need a hint, head south on Broad from Olney,
and you'll start to see a whole bunch of "][" logos as you're getting
close.

Now, do I believe Aaric Murray might actually wind up in a Temple
uniform come opening night 2012? No. With the NBA more than likely
headed for lockout, the opportunity to head for the draft is as an
unsure as it it unlikely. As such, I do anticipate Murray returning to
school. But, because he'll have lost a year of attention as a result of
his mandatory sit out, he'll want to maximize his own on visibility upon
return. Though Temple has consistently cracked the Top 25 the last
three seasons, the Atlantic 10 lacks the media coverage of a "power six"
conference, a fact Murray, by now, knows well. If he hopes to quickly
become re-relevant in draft circles when he does return to play, the
6'10 center's best bet is at a big name program. Moreover, there is no
guarantee that Temple head coach Fran Dunphy would even want Murray as
an addition. Either way, though it's possible Murray could submit an
application, I wouldn't get too worked up about it.

Update: We were able to get some clarification on Murray's
eligibility and transfer options. Though unlikely to begin with, due to
Atlantic 10 transfer rules, Murray would have sit out two seasons if
he intended to transfer within the conference. Word regarding spikes in
eligibility still seems to vary between losing one year and losing
none, while a move outside the conference would allow him two retain his
full two years. This link,
from the Pac-10 complicance web page, states that Murray would not lose
any eligibility in the event of an intraconference transfer.

As for the direction of La Salle Explorers moving forward, John
Giannini's hot seat has to be getting hotter. With a record of 98-115
over seven seasons, the doctor has posted only two winning seasons. And,
despite his (details undisclosed) contract extension last Spring, it's
not totally out of the realm of possibility for the University to begin
to consider other options. That said, the cost of a potential buy-out
might also be more than than administration is willing to swallow.

Any La Salle grads/students/fans out there to chime in on their program's future?

Sixers were right to reject Pelicans' reported Jahlil Okafor trade offer

Sixers were right to reject Pelicans' reported Jahlil Okafor trade offer

If the reports are accurate, Bryan Colangelo probably made the right decision not trading Jahlil Okafor last week.

After the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins early Monday morning in a shocking, post-All-Star Game blockbuster, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported several interesting pieces of information regarding the Sixers.

"The Pelicans were very close on a deal for Jahlil Okafor about 10 days ago, offering a similar package except it didn't include [Buddy] Hield," Shelburne wrote

A few hours earlier, she reported on ESPN that the deal for Okafor would have netted the Sixers Tyreke Evans, a protected first-round pick and a future second-round pick from New Orleans.

The protection the Pelicans sought was heavy — they wanted top-20 protection, according to Shelburne.

That just isn't a meaningful enough return, even for a player without a role in Philly.

Why? 

• Evans is a free agent after the season who has had three knee surgeries in the last two years and can't shoot threes. 

• A second-round pick is just a sweetener, so moving on from that ...

• A top-20 protected first-round pick isn't that enticing at all. Of the players selected between 20 and 30 in the last draft, only Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Toronto's Pascal Siakam and San Antonio's Dejounte Murray even have roles. 

In the previous year's draft, the best picks between 20-30 were Bobby Portis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. 

The year before, Rodney Hood and Clint Capela panned out for their teams, but the eight others selected in that range have done little.

This sort of trade might have worked for the Sixers if they weren't already accumulating some roster depth. They don't need to go search for another late-first-round pick they can hopefully turn into the eighth or ninth guy in a rotation. With players developing like T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes and Nik Stauskas, the Sixers are already building a decent second unit for the future.

There are a lot of people in this city ready to give Okafor away, but doing so just makes no sense for the Sixers. All it would solve is the center logjam and awkwardness, but the value in that New Orleans proposal just wasn't there for the Sixers. 

At this point, it's looking extremely unlikely Okafor is traded before the Feb. 23 deadline. The Blazers were interested but acquired Jusuf Nurkic from Denver instead. The Pelicans were interested but landed Cousins. 

The only team left we've heard connected to Okafor is the Bulls, who don't have much of intrigue to send the Sixers' way.

But still, hanging on to Okafor and trading him after the season, or on draft night, could yield the Sixers a better return than New Orleans was offering. Forget about Evans and forget about the second-round pick — that offer was basically a pick in the 20-30 range for Okafor. 

Not enough. 

The Sixers held out in hopes of New Orleans' making the pick top-10 protected or lottery-protected instead, but Pels GM Dell Demps knew the Sixers didn't have much leverage and thought to himself, "If I'm trading away a potentially valuable draft pick, I want a better player in return."

And so he got Cousins. That's how we ended up where we are today.

The Sixers' future is brighter because their pick swap with the Kings now holds more value, so last night was a win for them even though Okafor remains on the roster.

Sixers' big picture still bright even after recent bumps in the road

Sixers' big picture still bright even after recent bumps in the road

If you’re a fan of the local professional basketball franchise, it’s understandable that you might have been a bit frustrated to learn, weeks after the fact, that Joel Embiid suffered an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny meniscus tear.

And you might have found it a tad concerning that contrary to popular opinion, there exists the possibility that Ben Simmons won’t play at all this year. Or that Jahlil Okafor won’t play somewhere else.

This reminder: You can love your team, but don’t expect it to love you back.

And one more: As disillusioned as you might be at present, you’ll be back.

You know it, and the Sixers know it.

They can be somewhat less than forthright on the injury front or somewhat less than successful on the trade front, and it won’t matter. They can, in fact, do everything short of moving to Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., and it won’t matter.

Because if you’ve stuck with this outfit to this point in The Process – and man, you’re a real glutton for punishment if you have – you sure as heck aren’t going away now.

Not after watching Embiid, who – 31 games into his professional career already – looks like a transcendent player. And not when you stop to consider the promise of Simmons, the first overall pick in last summer’s draft. Or the promise of whatever Okafor might bring in a trade.

That said, the optics are not good right now. Not with the smoke from three brush fires hovering over the team, partially obscuring some promising developments (the rise of Dario Saric and T.J. McConnell foremost among them).

General manager Bryan Colangelo appears to have only told the truth about Embiid’s injured left knee as a last resort – i.e., after Derek Bodner of derekbodner.com reported the meniscus tear on Feb. 11.

Before that, the team had most often referred to the injury, sustained Jan. 20 against Portland, as a contusion, which would seem to connote some sort of minor, skin-deep issue. As he continued to miss games – in all he has been held out of the last 11, and 14 of 15 – there was, eventually, the admission that it was a bone bruise.

In a hastily convened news conference after Bodner’s story broke (and before a game against Miami), Colangelo finally said that the team knew from the start it was “a very minor meniscal tear,” in addition to a bone bruise.

Not the finest hour for a GM who had promised transparency.

Then the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported last Friday, at the start of All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, that the Jan. 23 CT scan on Simmons’ surgically repaired right foot indicated he had not fully healed.

Simmons suffered a Jones fracture of that foot’s fifth metatarsal on Sept. 30 -- i.e., the final day of training camp. The word then was that he would miss three months and thus be back in January. Then there were reports he would return after the All-Star break. As recently as last Wednesday coach Brett Brown told ESPN.com, “I fully expect him to play this season.”

After Pompey’s report, Colangelo issued a statement saying the team is “employing a conservative and thoughtful approach” to Simmons’ recovery, and basing his return “on the advice and direction of medical professionals.”

Colangelo added that Simmons’ next examination is scheduled for this Thursday, the day before the Sixers resume their season at home against Washington. Brown has said the rookie will need four or five full practices before he plays in a game, of which 26 remain in the season. The math doesn’t look promising, people.

The trade deadline also arrives Thursday, and on Sunday night Sean Deveney of The Sporting News and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweeted out that the Kings offered guard Tyreke Evans, a 2017 first-round pick and a future choice over a week ago for Okafor before shipping a similar package (as well as rookie guard Buddy Hield) to Sacramento for All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.

Shelburne tweeted that the sticking point in the Okafor-to-the-Pelicans deal was the fact that the Sixers and New Orleans could not agree on the protections for the first-round pick.

So this saga continues. As far back as Feb. 6, there was a report (from USA Today’s Sam Amick) that the Sixers were talking with New Orleans about a deal involving Okafor.

Then, during a break in that Miami game on Feb. 11, Okafor was seen shaking hands with teammates as if a deal had gone down. He didn’t play that night – Brown admitted it was because of “trade rumors” – and Okafor didn’t even travel to Charlotte for a game two nights later.

But he rejoined the team last Wednesday in Boston for the Sixers’ final game before the break and saw some time off the bench. David Aldridge of Turner Sports has since reported that a swap with Portland fell through.

Other outlets have reported that Denver and Chicago expressed interest (the Nuggets presumably before swapping centers with the Blazers), and on Saturday Deveney wrote that Dallas was a potential destination.

So far, nothing.

Lest you be inclined to fret about any of this, understand that the Sixers stand to benefit from a (likely) downturn in Sacramento’s already-dim fortunes, given that they can swap first-rounders with the Kings under terms of a larcenous 2015 trade engineered by Sam Hinkie.

On another front, Embiid said that if all goes well in practice this week, he “probably” will return Friday.

And kindly consider the big picture – that the Sixers have had far worse times than this. Far worse, even, than the first three years of The Process. They are the franchise that traded Wilt, Moses, Barkley, AI and nearly Dr. J. The one that went 9-73 when they were TRYING to win. The one that twice frittered away 3-1 leads en route to losing playoff series; no other Eastern Conference team has done it that often.

You will get through this.

Deep down, you know it. And they do, too