Bye-bye, Elton Brand. See you later, Lou Williams.
The 76ers turned a mundane offseason into a memorable one by jettisoning their leading scorers from each of the past two seasons and clearing needed space in the salary cap to potentially set up a bigger move.
With fans worried a surprising run to the Eastern Conference semifinals might cloud management’s view of the roster, team president Rod Thorn made a pair of bold moves Friday that showed the team believed changes were needed for the franchise to grow.
Step one meant saying goodbye to Brand.
Thorn said the Sixers have decided to use the amnesty clause on Brand and will get about $18 million in salary cap relief for next season. The amnesty clause allows a team to waive one player during the new labor deal and have 100 percent of his salary taken off the cap and the tax.
Brand was entering the final season of an $80 million, five-year contract. Brand is still owed the $18.1 million on the final year of his deal. Teams under the salary cap can now bid for Brand’s services for next season and the veteran forward is expected to be in demand by a contender.
”It’s probably a good thing for Elton,” agent David Falk said by phone. ”It’s not a surprise. We’ve been talking about this for months. It’s part of the business of basketball. Clearly, he didn’t want to be in Philly playing 15 minutes a game. That’s not something that’s productive for him.”
With money to spend, the Sixers agreed Friday to a one-year contract with guard Nick Young. Young’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told The Associated Press on Friday that the deal is for one season in the $6 million range. Deals cannot be signed until July 11.
Young spent his first four-plus seasons with the Washington Wizards before he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in March. He’s averaged 11.4 points over his career.
Young, a two-time all-conference standout at Southern California before becoming a consistent NBA scorer in five seasons with Washington, averaged 14.2 points last season, and 17.4 points in 2010-11. The versatile swingman is slotted – for now – to replace guard Lou Williams, who opted out of the final year of his contract that was worth $6.4 million.
”He’s got more size, gives you a little more versatility, and Nick’s a big-time scorer,” Bartelstein said. ”The more we took a look at the situation, it’s a perfect fit for Nick at this stage in his career.”
Williams was runner-up to Oklahoma’s James Harden in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. He said after the Sixers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, that, ”If I was a betting man, I think I would be back.”
Young’s arrival signaled the end of Williams’ run. He averaged 11.3 points over a seven-year career with the Sixers and led the team in scoring last season with 14.9 points a game.
His signature moment came in Game 4 of a first-round playoff series last season against Miami when he helped the Sixers avert a sweep with a go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the arc over a lunging Dwyane Wade with 8.1 seconds left that lifted Philadelphia to an 86-82 win
”Philly, I appreciate you all. Unfortunately I will not be coming back, as an organization they decided to move in a different direction,” he posted on Twitter shortly after the Young move became public.
Sixers guard Evan Turner said on Twitter that Williams would be missed.
”S/o to Lou will for all he’s done for Philly. One of the realest dudes I’ve met. Sad to see him go. Much love to him,” he wrote.
Brand was a two-time All-Star when he spurned better offers and signed the free-agent contract with Philadelphia. While Brand was the locker room leader and heart of the Sixers, his production never merited the deal he signed as one of the hottest free agents available.
He played only 29 games in an injury-filled first season with Philadelphia and never meshed with former coach Eddie Jordan in his second. Under Doug Collins, Brand found his niche, and led the Sixers in scoring with 15.0 points a game in 2010-11. He averaged 11 points and 7.2 rebounds last season.
Brand knew amnesty was possible, but stressed the day after the season ended he did not want to leave.
”I want to be here, absolutely,” Brand said. ”If it is (over), I definitely loved my time here.”
Brand may not become a legitimate 20-10 threat at power forward again like his years with Chicago and the Clippers, but he was as steady and durable as any Sixer over the past two seasons.
”The teams that are the best suited for him are all over the cap and not allowed to make bids,” Falk said. ”There are a few teams I know that are interested in him and I’m going to speak to the owners of the teams over the next few days and try and get a sense of what’s going on.”
The Sixers hadn’t done much more than agree to deals with forward Lavoy Allen and center Spencer Hawes. Allen showed promise in his rookie season and Hawes, while productive when he played, missed a chunk of the season with various injuries. It’s unlikely the duo will start in the frontcourt.
”One of the difficulties for (Brand) in Philly is that he didn’t have a chance to play next to a solid center,” Falk said. ”He had to play some center, he had to guard centers. He’s a power forward. Hopefully the move will be good for Philadelphia and good for Elton.”