The Sixers GM was gracious enough to hold an open Q&A session yesterday with several writers from the web, including Matt and myself, and we had the opportunity to discuss basketball with a bright man and true fan of the game. As excited as the fans are for this coming season, Stef is equally as enthusiastic about the club's off-season haul.
Describing last season as very rewarding, Stefanski acknowledged there was a "residual effect" from the team's surprise playoff run, and players wanted to be a part of the Sixers because they expect the team to be good. Once Brand opted out of his contract, he became the club's main priority, and Ed seized the opportunity. From there, the plan just fell into place.
The number one question on my list was whether or not Stef thinks this team, with the addition of Brand and re-signing of Iguodala, is good enough to win an NBA Championship. Ed would not definitively answer yes or no, replying only time will tell, but with the opinion the team has undoubtedly moved in the right direction. As he said at the very beginning, "We look good on paper, but paper doesn't play."
One of the highlights of the interview was when Stef talked about the decision to bring Theo Ratliff back to the club. The addition was purely a result of the unfortunate injury to Jason Smith, with Theo only expected to see limited minutes, but it's the former Sixer's opinion of the fans that I found interesting.
"He said he loves Philadelphia. He loves the fans because the fans make him play hard, and the fans are always there for him, and he knows if he puts in the effort, the Philadelphia fans will like him.
He figured the Philadelphia fans out. Philadelphia fans are all about effort. When you give the effort, and maybe it comes up short, they're gonna forgive you. When you don't give the effort is when the fans get on you."
Refreshing to hear in light of some recent comments from some of the other athletes in this town.
Stefanski had nothing but positive things to say about everybody on the team, and touted the team's versatility when asked about what guys would play which positions. "We have a lot of guys that I would just term basketball players," while explaining a lot of players would rotate between different spots in the lineup depending on the situation.
The interview was a lot of fun, and we covered just about everyone on the team, so I've posted some more excerpts below. I'd also like to thank Ed Stefanski for taking the time to hold the conference. It was great to hear what his enthusiasm firsthand.
* Sweet Lou, recently rewarded with a contract worth $25 million, received high acclaim from Stefanski. "I think Lou Williams is a hell of a basketball player, I really like the way the kid plays."
* Stef revealed Thaddeus Young has spent the summer improving his ball-handling in preparation of seeing more minutes at the 3 position. "There's no question he has gotten better."
* The Sixers are very pleased with the development of Marreese Speights at this point. Stefanski gushed about the rookie, who he described as skilled and athletic. Despite the rumors about Speights' work ethic, the skills are there, and the injury to Smith may give the kid an opportunity this season.
* Willie Green was given a vote of confidence from the Sixers GM. For now, there are no more moves planned, so Willie is part of the team. He also disclosed that Green was playing hurt last year, and was hopeful there would be some improvement this season.