SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Jerry Colangelo is no stranger to the most elite NBA talent. With roles including chairman of the board for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and USA Basketball Board of Directors Chairman, he is around the best in the game, past and present.
Colangelo has the same objective of success in his position as a special advisor for the Sixers. Following a disappointing 10-win season, the Sixers looked to change directions by landing Ben Simmons with the first overall pick and signing experienced veterans in free agency. They also are anticipating the long-awaited debut of Joel Embiid.
Rather than making a complete overhaul and throwing mega-dollars at star free agents like Kevin Durant, the Sixers took a step-by-step approach this offseason in building a foundation for their young, developing players. It is a method that can take time, but it's designed with long-term goals for winning.
"I'm sure that everyone should have optimism," Colangelo told CSNPhilly.com at the Basketball Hall of Fame. "But there's a word I've always used over the years about optimism. It should be guarded optimism because things take time. When you're building teams — and I've had the privilege of doing that quite a few times in my career — you're adding pieces here and there, and then once in a while you strike out and get that last piece. I think where the Sixers are today is, this is the beginning of that particular process, and that is building what everyone would hope to be a championship team."
Two focal points of the Sixers' future are Simmons and Embiid. Simmons, a 6-foot-10 point-forward, is ready to make an impact as a rookie. Embiid, on the other hand, has been waiting two years to play following foot surgeries. Last month Embiid said he feels "100 percent" and plans to participate in training camp.
"With all of the reports that I've seen and all the footage I've seen in terms of video, it appears that he's headed in the right direction," Colangelo said of Embiid. "I know that everyone's excited about training camp because of all of the new faces. ... The fortunate ability to have the first pick and select Ben Simmons, you put all those new players on paper and to add that to a roster, it's going to be really interesting, exciting to see how it all plays out."
When it comes to incoming international players, Colangelo's involvement with Team USA gave him the opportunity to meet with Dario Saric and Sergio Rodriguez in Rio during the Olympics. Saric, who signed with the Sixers two years after being drafted, had a solid showing for Croatia, while Rodriguez helped Spain win bronze.
"I thought [Saric] played very well and I complimented him on his performances," Colangelo said. "Both of them showed great enthusiasm about coming to training camp. I think it's going to be exciting to have them in Sixers uniforms very shortly."
In building a roster, teams hope they have a star (or stars) in the making in their organization. The Sixers had just that for over 10 seasons with Allen Iverson, one of the inductees in this year's Hall of Fame class.
"What sets him apart from so many is that he did it his way," Colangelo said. "It may have been a little counter to what other people would have expected, but give him credit for being a big man as a little man in a big man's game. He made himself known. His presence was felt by anyone on the court, and his numbers speak for themselves. They're off the charts. A long career, a very successful career, and someone who justifiably deserves to be in."