NEW YORK A quiet offseason took a dramatic turn on Friday morning when the 76ers jumped head first into the free-agent waters.
The team signed shooting guard Nick Young to a one-year deal worth 6 million, according to a team source. In acquiring Young, which cannot be announced until July 11, the deal could mean the end of Lou Williams in Philly.
Or does it?
Shortly after coming to terms with Young, a team source said the Sixers had exercised the amnesty clause on veteran power forward Elton Brand. By using their amnesty, the Sixers removed Brands 18 million off the salary cap, which will allow the team to sign Young as well as pursue a scorer and some backcourt depth. One of those signings could include Williams, who led the team in scoring last season.
The moves also clear enough space under the cap that the Sixers could take on salary in a trade, too.
As for using the amnesty clause, teams under the salary cap can bid on Brand like an auction. According to reports, the teams currently under the salary cap include Dallas, New Orleans, Portland, and Houston. If no team places a bid, Brand becomes a free agent and can sign with any team.
At age 32 with 13 NBA seasons on the odometer, the past three seasons have not been easy for Brand. Last year he finished the season with a dislocated thumb and broken hand as well as a beat-up body. The year before that, he was coming off shoulder surgery. And though he came into 2011-12 relatively healthy, it took Brand a while to find his rhythm and legs during the compressed, rapid-fire schedule.
Brand played most of the second half with a dislocated thumb, and then during the playoffs he injured his neck and shoulder so badly that it limited his range of motion.
But when it comes to heart, toughness and professionalism, there are few athletes in sports that can measure up with Brand. With a pair of legs that dont carry him as quickly as they used to and rigid scar tissue taking hold of his hands, shoulders, feet and legs, its a wonder that he did not miss more games.
Nevertheless, Brand was the one player his teammates and coaches could go to no matter what. Moreover, Brand was the one voice in the Sixers locker room that carried the most weight.
Hes one of our proudest players, coach Doug Collins said during the playoff series against the Celtics. I admire him and respect him to the ultimate. He was a much-maligned player here for a couple years, with his contract and his injuries. Im going to give him every chance to be successful. Thats what you do with players who are professional. Its what Im going to do. The guys who are out there fighting for you every single night, you have to give them the chance to do that.
Young, a 6-foot-6, five-year veteran out of USC, averaged 14.2 points per game for the Wizards and Clippers last season. A floor spacer, Young attempted 282 three-pointers last season and hit them at a 37 percent clip. Young is also a good free-throw shooter and made his first 30 of the season with the Wizards and 38 of his first 39. He scored at least 20 points in 14 games with a season-high of 35.
Youngs best season was two years ago when he averaged 17.4 points in 64 games to lead the Wizards.
Whats next for the Sixers? With Young in and Brand out, the Sixers have approximately 36 million of the 58 million cap marked for 10 players, including first-round draft picks Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie. Teams must spend at least 85 percent of its cap space per the collective bargaining agreement, which means the Sixers have a few more millions to spend.
Sit tight, it looks like the Sixers are just getting started.
E-mail John R. Finger at email@example.com