Game 6

Game 6

Friday, January 6, 2012
Game 6: Wells Fargo Center
Sixers 96, Pistons 73

PHILADELPHIA — Call it a throwback night. Or better yet, a way back night. In opening the home schedule for the 2011-12 season, the brand-new owners of the Philadelphia 76ers decided to call on some of the heroes from the franchise’s best era of extended glory.

More specifically, it was the players from the 1983 NBA Championship team that were summoned to a building that none of them ever played in. Earl Cureton, the bench player whose job was to give the MVP frontline players a break and to grab a few rebounds, was there. So too was Bobby Jones, the reed thin forward who was known for his ability to play defense and fill the lanes on the fast break.

In fact, Jones was so good a defender that he was nicknamed, “The Secretary of Defense.” In the early 1980s, the shoe company Nike put out posters of Jones that depicted him behind a big, oak desk as if he were some sort of military giant. It was an interesting look for Jones, knowing that he was (and is) a devout Christian.

Moses Malone and Julius Erving made it back, too. Frankly, the Sixers can’t reasonably have a reunion of former players without the inclusion of Moses and Doc. What would be the point? Not only were they the catalysts behind the championship team, but unarguably the two most popular players, too.

Certainly there isn’t very much we can add here to further the legends of Moses and Doc.

No, the real legend in the building that night chose not to participate in the public celebration of the championship, though he was shown on the video board above the arena.

Indeed, Andrew Toney had finally returned to the basketball arena in South Philly.

Reportedly back at a Sixers game for the first time since his playing career ended prematurely because of a foot injury, Toney seemingly has buried the decades long grudge against the organization that was spurred on by the poor treatment he reportedly received from former owner Harold Katz.

Toney had it all. He was a shooting guard, but built like a forward. He played with a mean streak and was fearless with the basketball in his hands. It didn’t matter who was guarding him because Toney wasn’t going to back down.

To the folks who were too young to see Toney play, I described him as Allen Iverson with a jumper and the ability to play in a team structure. He could pass it almost as well as he could shoot it…

And boy could he shoot it.

In his first five seasons with the Sixers, Toney averaged more than 20 points per game, made two all-star teams, got to the Eastern Conference Finals three times and the NBA Finals twice. He was rewarded with a big contract (for the time) before his sixth season because it would have been stupid not to keep him in town. Not only was Toney good, but also he was popular. Ask any kid born in the early 1970s who their favorite Sixers player was and undoubtedly the answer would be Andrew Toney.

I know he was my favorite Sixers player ever. Living so close to Franklin & Marshall College where the team held its preseason training camp, I was lucky enough to see Toney play from close up. Better yet, as the resident gym rat of F&M’s Mayser Center, I often rebounded shots for Toney when he remained after practice to shoot jumpers. The farther he went out on the court, the softer the ball seemed to float as it would nestle itself into the net only to be returned and fired up there again.

Truth is I saw Toney’s shooting technique so much from so close that his method became mine. Going up against the competition in the CYO league, my jumper started with a half step of my right foot before rising up to let it fly.

Believe it or not, the result didn’t change all that much from idol to fan.

For those lucky enough to have seen Toney in his prime, they know that he was The Truth. Called the Boston Strangler for the way he wrecked the Celtics during the postseason as well as the Silent Assassin, Toney was on the way to a Hall of Fame career until the injuries came. He was the second-leading scorer on the Sixers the year they won the championship, but the most-feared player on the team.

Larry Bird said Toney was the best clutch player he had ever seen and Charles Barkley claimed he was the best teammate he ever had.

Malone doesn’t disagree, either.

“Andrew was tough, man,” Moses said. “He had a way to get it done. He played with a lot of heart and he loved the game. If you’re like that you’ll be the best.”

But Toney’s career ended abruptly and with controversy that no man should endure. After he got that big contract, Toney appeared in just six games during the 1985-86 season because of stress fractures in his foot. The problem never got much better and Toney played two more abbreviated seasons before he packed it in at age 30.

Before that he was derided and belittled by the owner Katz, who aside from being cheap when it came to running his ballclub, didn’t believe Toney was really injured. Katz forced Toney to take drug tests and questioned his fortitude in public because he couldn’t take the floor. Reportedly, Katz even went so far as to hire private investigators to find out if his well-paid but injured All-Star had a nefarious side.

So when his playing days in Philadelphia ended, Toney never looked back and never stepped foot at another Sixers’ game…

Until Friday night home opener.

Toney did not take part in the brief, pregame ceremony, nor did he show up for the media availability with his old teammates, either. But Toney, who these days works as an elementary school teacher in suburban Atlanta, was introduced to the crowd during the second quarter of the game.

Obviously, the crowd went crazy.

“Andrew finally made his mind that he had to come back and see the fans,” Malone said. “He knows they love him.”

And the elusive great one finally returned, too. If you blinked, though, you missed it…

Kind of like Andrew Toney’s entire career. 

Holy Moses

Moses_malone

If you were lucky enough to watch Moses Malone play on a regular basis, there was nothing about it that looked easy. He wasn’t what anyone would label graceful and because he had relatively small hands for a 6-foot-10 guy, Moses always seemed to be clinging to the ball with extra might.

Add in the fact that Moses was covered with a drenching sweat seconds after the opening tip and it added to the image of a guy busting it out there. He was no force of nature like many NBA superstars we have seen, but he brought a rare championship to Philadelphia and became one of the NBA’s all-time 50 greatest players through force of will.

More than anything, Moses was a rebounder. He’d park himself on the low block and run a tip drill when a ball came off the rim. If the ball didn’t go in after one of his tips, he’d get it again… and again until the play was finished. Considering he broke in with the Utah Stars straight out of Petersburg, Va. high school in 1974 and didn’t retire until 1995 just illustrates the point.

Maybe the best explanation how Moses acquired his style for no-fluff and tenacious basketball comes from the fact that as a high school kid he often was allowed to play pickup games with the inmates at the nearby prison. If that doesn’t teach a guy how to be tough…

Kevin Love, the big man for the Minnesota Timberwolves, has a knack for rebounding just like Moses. He learned his craft a little differently, though. The son of NBA/ABA player, Stan Love, and nephew of Beach Boys singer, Mike Love, the younger Love didn’t hone his game playing against prisoners. Instead, he went to UCLA for one season and spent last summer with Team USA in the World Championships. In Moses’ day, only college players could be on international teams and since he grew up in poverty in a single-parent home, the goal was to get some money.

Nevertheless, with a league-leading 15.5 rebounds per game to go with nearly 21 points per game, Love’s numbers mirror some of those posted by Moses during his career with the 76ers. Of course those pertain only to the regular season because Love hasn’t been to the playoffs yet. That means he hasn’t made any boasts like Moses in predicting three straight sweeps like he did with “fo’, fo’, fo’,” during the Sixers’ run in 1983.

However, like Moses in 1978-79, Love is piling up some ridiculous feats. Back then for the Houston Rockets, Moses notched at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in 50 straight games to set the (modern day) all-time record for such a thing. Wilt Chamberlain registered 227 straight double-doubles during the NBA's statistical dark ages. That was back when a guy like Wilt could average 50.4 points per game (1962) and lead the league in assists another season (1968). Better yet, Wilt is the only player in NBA history to get a double triple-double when he got 24 points, 26 rebounds and 21 assists in a game for the Sixers in the 1968 season,

In other words, we're counting Moses' 50 straight double-doubles as the modern day record.

So, during the '78-'79 season, Moses got nearly 25 points and 18 rebounds per game during the regular season and then 24.5 points and 20 rebounds during the playoffs to win his first of three MVP awards.

Think about 50 straight double-doubles for a second… that means no nights off, no mailing it in and no resting on a back-to-back or even a stretch where the Rockets spent a weekend with games in Phoenix, Portland and Seattle on three straight nights. Better yet, Moses pulled off the feat despite playing on the same team as noted ball hogs Rick Barry and Calvin Murphy.

Love got his 49th straight double-double in the 111-100 loss in Philadelphia on Friday night, finishing the game with 21 points and 23 boards on the heels of a 20-20 effort two nights prior. He will attempt to tie Moses’ record on Saturday in Washington against one of his dad’s old teams and where the Hall-of-Famer he gets his middle name from, Wesley Unseld.

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Primoz Brezec, we hardly knew ye

Wilt When one thinks back on the historical significance of
some of the mega-deals that have gone down in the name of basketball in this town,
it almost leaves a guy breathless. Ponder for a moment the fact that two teams
with origins in Philadelphia traded away Wilt Chamberlain when he was in the
prime of his career…

Not once, but twice!

Imagine that—arguably the greatest individual talent ever
to play basketball was traded from the Warriors to the Sixers for Connie
Dierking, Paul Neumann, Lee Shaffer and cash before going from the 76ers to the
Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff. The first trade
came a season after Wilt led the league in scoring with nearly 35 points per
game and 23 rebounds, while the second one came two seasons after the Sixers
won their first NBA title (third for a Philly team) and the big man went for
24-24 and led the league in assists.

But just like that, he was gone. Poof!

Trading away Wilt Chamberlain was hardly the most dubious
deal in the history of Philadelphia NBA teams. Nope, not even close. Ever hear
the story about how Maurice Cheeks was traded in August of 1989 to the Spurs,
only Mo didn’t know about it until he arrived back at his house and found a
reporter there waiting at his doorstep. Go ahead and ask Michael Barkann about
that one sometime because he was the guy who broke the news to Cheeks.

No word if Michael B tracked down Christian Welp and
David Wingate, too, to tell them they were packaged with Cheeks to get Johnny Dawkins
and Jay Vincent.

Charles Barkley was traded simply because he had outgrown
Philadelphia and probably would have been arrested for aggravated assault on
Armen Gilliam if he had to stay another day longer. The Barkley deal returned
the Sixers Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry, which is the basketball equivalent
to trading Curt Schilling for Travis Lee, Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla and Nelson
Figueroa.

Sometimes trades have to be made for the sanity of
everyone who remains. Barkley and Schilling had to go for just that very reason—we
needed to stay sane and so did they. However, on the scale of trades that
should have warranted the state to step in and send owner Harold Katz upstate
to the nervous hospital for a little vaca, the deal on draft day of 1986 is an
all-timer.

Whenever I think about the Deal of ’86, I think of it two
different ways. In one I look at it kind of like Robert E. Lee meeting Ulysses
Grant in the courthouse at Appomattox in 1865 to sign the papers signaling the
end of the Civil War. Then Lee slowly rode off on that white horse of his and
wandered around in the wilderness until it was time to check out.

The other thing I think of is the Saturday Night Live sketch from the ‘90s when Kevin Nealon and
Victoria Jackson play interviewers who ask dumb politicians deftly worded
questions about just how far they can shove their heads into their derriere.
Always gets a giggle, though in real life it’s not so funny.

Think about it—in one day the Sixers traded Hall-of-Famer
Moses Malone and solid frontcourt man Terry Catledge to Washington and then
sent the No. 1 overall pick of the deep (yet cursed) 1986 draft to Cleveland.
The pick turned out to be perennial All-Star Brad Daugherty. Maybe the Sixers
somehow knew that Daugherty’s Hall-of-Fame career would be cut short at age 28
because of back injuries? Or maybe they didn’t want a guy who got 21-and-11
during the last four years of his career?

Either way, the Sixers turned away Moses Malone, Brad
Daugherty and Terry Catledge, plus two first-round draft picks and got back Roy
Hinson, Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland…

No, there’s no punch line. That really happened!

I still can’t believe the Spectrum wasn’t overrun with an
angry mob out of an old movie like It’s a
Wonderful Life
with folks screaming for Harold Katz as if he were the
miserly Old Man Potter. Why weren’t there riots?

So it is above the din of discontent that we recall the
inglorious days of yore when our NBA team out-smarted itself and ruined things
for a while. In the aftermath of Wilt going to the Lakers, the Sixers set the
record for the worst season in the history of the sport with just 9 wins in
1973. And, perhaps, maybe it’s even reasonable to think that the Sixers have
never really recovered from Draft Day of ’86. Why not? In addition to losing
two Hall-of-Fame quality players, they also gave up two first-round draft picks
and picked up Jeff Ruland, who went on to play just 18 games over the course of
five years. Current Sixers’ GM Ed Stefanski knows that if he puts his hand over
an open flame and keeps it there for a bit, it’s not going to end well.

Smart right?

Maybe. But then again, maybe not. After all, at 20-33
these Sixers are going nowhere fast. They are too good to benefit from the
draft and too bad to do anything of note in the playoffs. Moreover, two players—Elton
brand and Andre Iguodala—have contracts that aren’t very conducive to a team
hoping to rebuild in the current salary-capped NBA. I think I called it NBA DMZ
a few days ago. Basketball limbo might be a better term.

With the majority of fans hoping the team would unload a
valuable player, but cap-unfriendly guy like Iguodala for any number of teams
we heard about on the rumor mill (and confirmed by the GM) in order to acquire
the coveted expiring contract so favored in these crazy times, it was funny to
hear the reaction to an actual deal. No, funny is not the right word there
because it implies that a good time was had by all. Let’s just say it was
fascinating to couch the reaction from the fans against the words from
Stefanski. See, the GM thinks his team is underachieving and isn’t as bad as
the 20-33 record indicates.

No argument here.

However, if the GM makes a deal he doesn’t want to give
up Iguodala for Jeff Ruland. Sure-and-steady Eddie wants some talent back in a
trade, too. Why wouldn’t he? Good for him.

“For us to take back expiring contracts for talent didn’t
make much sense, and it would not have gotten us close to a lot of the team
[much further under the cap],” Stefanski explained.

Primoz brezec Fair enough. So when the only deal at the trade deadline
is one which the Sixers sent Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and a second-round pick
to the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Jodie Meeks and center Francisco Elson, well,
let’s just say it feels a bit underwhelming. In fact, it feels a bit
disappointing, too. I mean, think of all those little kids out there talking
about, “Roy-al with Cheese!” and sporting those Primoz jerseys with ol’ number
whatever he was on the back.

Nobody ever thinks about the kids.

In light of the mega-deal, I solicited opinions from the
man on the street (via Twitter) for thoughts on the deadline blockbuster… this
is what I got back:

A fellow named Robert from Philadelphia asked, “Who are
the Sixers?”

Oh come on, we know… but
do we really know them.
They never let us get close enough.

A man who calls himself Kevin from Philadelphia seemed
most distraught, writing: “Just when I got my Royal Ivey jersey…”

Isn’t that how it always works?

A guy named Dan from Delaware astutely pointed out that
Francisco Elson speaks five different language, including his native tongue,
Dutch, says this fact will help him in Philly: “He can translate DNP-CD however
he likes.”

After that the responses just got weird and I kind of
checked out after the one from a guy who describes himself as a “Philly
Phanatic,” who asked: “Is the real Ed Stefanski in a cave somewhere and
actually Billy King has pulled a 'Face Off' switcheroo?”

When we start comparing the 2009-10 Sixers to a Travolta/Cage vehicle, it's time to stop.

Yes, the trading deadline can send us all off the deep
end, but at least this time we didn’t have to go for the torches and pitchforks
to storm whatever it is to strom.

Forget the draft (just win, baby!)

Bad_news Even though the 76ers are playing some decent basketball
lately and slowly making up ground for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference
playoff picture, some fans of the team are actually aghast. Winning games and
slipping into the playoffs doesn’t serve these guys well, the argument goes.

There is some logic to that, but not much. Sure, the
Sixers might be able to add a missing piece to help build for the future,
however, even if they lose every game for the rest of the season they have a
small shot at nabbing the top pick.

So what’s wrong with making the playoffs? Based on the
Sixers’ draft history winning ball games and trying to rebuild with free agents
(always difficult to do with the NBA’s salary cap) might be the best tact.

Sure, we know all about the recent picks like Jrue
Holliday, Marreese Speights, Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala and
Sam Dalembert, who are all solid players and should help the team in the
future. All of those players were selected well out of the top 10 picks (except for Iguodala) from
draft classes that weren’t known for being particularly deep, so in that regard
the team did pretty well.

It’s just when the Sixers get into the top handful of
picks where things get crazy. Yes, Allen Iverson was the top overall pick in
1996 and he’s headed for the Hall of Fame, and Charles Barkley was taken fifth
overall in the famous 1984 draft. But for every Iverson and Barkley there is a
Shawn Bradley, Sharone Wright, Charles Smith, Keith Van Horn, Marvin “Bad News”
Barnes and whatever the hell that was in 1986.

Indeed, June hasn’t been the kindest month for the
Sixers.

Just look at what
happened from 1973to 1975 where the Sixers had four picks in the top five and
six first-round selections. That’s where following the NBA-record nine-win
season the team took Doug Collins with the top pick in ’73 (not bad), took
Roman Catholic and St. Joe’s alum Mike Bantom with the fourth-pick before it
was disallowed for some reason[1],
and then snagged Raymond Lewis from California State University at Los Angeles
at No. 18.

Collins, of course, was a four-time All-Star and scored
22 points per game in during the run to the Finals in 1977. However, injuries
ended Collins’ career before he turned 30. Bantom spent nine seasons in the NBA
before closing out his career with the Sixers in 1982. Instead of latching on
with the ’83 title team, Bantom played in Italy.

The dubiousness of the ’73 draft was trumped in a big way
in 1974 where the Sixers took Bad News Barnes with the second overall pick. It
actually might have been an interesting pick had Barnes not jumped to the
Spirit of St. Louis in the ABA before becoming the poster child for the era of
bad behavior in the 1970s.

In the history of nicknames, Barnes’ was perfect. During
his rookie season with St. Louis, he disappeared for days presumably to renegotiate
his contract—in the middle of his first season, no less. After days off the
grind (much easier to do in 1974), Barnes was finally located with his agent in
a pool hall in Dayton, Oh.

They always turn up in the first place you should look…

Barnes played in just 315 pro games, made the playoffs
once in the ABA and appeared in two ABA All-Star Games. That was when he was in
relative control. When Barnes was in full Bad News mode, it was pretty dark.
Check out this interview he
gave to Fanhouse last December
:

"I was making
40 to 50 grand a week [selling] the drugs,'' said Barnes. "I was making so
much money (in the selling of marijuana) it was hard to stay focused (on
basketball).''

Barnes said he served as an investor with drug kingpin Paul Edward Hindelang Jr.,
who would later cooperate with the government and forfeit $50 million in
drug-trafficking proceeds. Barnes said Hindelang's right-hand man was Roosevelt
Becton, a friend of the basketball player whom he describes as the
"godfather'' who "ran St. Louis.''

"Hindelang was the guy who started the 'mother ship,' which would park
five miles away and boats would shoot for the (Colombia) shore,'' Barnes said.
"He got a two-ton freighter a bunch of us (contributed for financially).
Then it would go down and buy two tons of Colombian marijuana.

"It was the
best marijuana. We bought it from the Colombian government for a dollar a pound
… I was investing money (in the operation).''

Talk about wasted talent:

"I was one of the five best players on
the planet, period"

"I would have been one of the 50 greatest players of all time,'' said
Barnes, 57, who now works with at-risk teenagers in his Men to Men program in
his hometown of Providence, R.I., telling them the pitfalls of drugs. "I
was one of the five best players on the planet period (with St. Louis). Just
ask anybody (from) back then … I was kicking some butt. … But I was going
on a downhill spiral. I met drug traffickers in St. Louis and they showed me
another way of life. And that was detrimental to my basketball career.''

Maybe it wasn’t so bad that Barnes didn’t end up with the
Sixers. Imagine Barnes in the frontcourt with Darryl Dawkins and Julius Erving
with a team that featured Collins, George McGinnis, World B. Free, Henry Bibby,
Steve Mix and Caldwell Jones. That’s a team that could have gone 11 deep with
Jellybean Bryant and Harvey Catchings filling roles, too.

Instead, Barnes was a wasted No. 2 pick in a deep
draft  where the Sixers could have
snapped up any one of the 18 players who went on to play at least 550 games in
the NBA. This includes Hall of Famer George Gervin.

The team finished up the three-year stretch of top picks
by getting Dawkins with the No. 5 pick before swiping Free in the second round.
In 1975, the Sixers did about just as well as they could do, arguably getting
the two players that went on to have the best careers of the draft class.

Still, the team didn’t really come together until Doc
came aboard in 1976. And despite the loss to the Blazers in the ’77 Finals and
to the Lakers in ’80 and ‘82, the championship squad wasn’t built on top draft
picks, though Andrew Toney was the No. 8 pick in the 1980 draft.

They got Mo Cheeks late in the second round in 1978,
Clint Richardson late in the second in 1979, as well as Franklin Edwards and
Mark McNamara late in the first rounds of the 1981 and 1982 drafts. Otherwise,
the best Sixers’ team was built with trades and signings… Bobby Jones came from
Denver for McGinnis; they bought Doc from the Nets; Marc Iavaroni was signed
after the Knicks waived him; and Moses arrived in a trade with Houston in which
the Sixers gave up Caldwell Jones and their first pick of the ’83 draft.

Not bad.

Moses If only the Sixers could have drafted as well when given
a top pick. Oh sure, Barkley and Iverson were hard to mess up, especially since
two of the greatest players ever were taken ahead of Sir Chuck (Hakeem Olajuwon
and Michael Jordan). But just imagine what could have been if the Sixers had
simply drafted Brad Daugherty with the top pick of the 1986 draft and dropped
him into the frontcourt with Barkley and Moses.

Instead, just before it was their turn to make the No. 1 pick, owner Harold Katz sent it to Cleveland for Roy Hinson (yes, Roy Hinson!) before dealing Moses and Terry Catledge to Washington for Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland.

/shakes head/

Those trades made little sense in 1986 and make even less sense now.

What were they thinking?

Imagine those three up front with Cheeks and Hersey
Hawkins in the backcourt.

Go ahead… we’ll wait.

Now imagine that the Sixers can knock off the Celtics or
Pistons as the ‘80s end and instead of taking Christian Welp at No. 16 in 1987,
they get Mark Jackson (third all-time in assists) or Reggie Lewis (perennial All-Star
before his untimely death). Sure, the No. 3 pick of Charles Smith and
subsequent deal for Hawkins worked out, but what if the Sixers would have just
kept the pick and taken Mitch Richmond instead. That lineup turns to Moses,
Barkley, Daugherty, Cheeks and Richmond.

Sigh!  

Strangely, the Sixers eventually have had a bunch of No.
1 picks in recent years, starting with Iverson, Joe Smith, Derrick Coleman,
Elton Brand and Chris Webber.

What? They couldn’t swing a deal for Kwame Brown?

Try this out—from 1990 to 1999 drafts, the Sixers have had 20 top
10 draft picks end up on their roster. Ready for them?

1990—Coleman (No. 1 to New Jersey) and Willie Burton (No. 9 to Miami)

1991—Dikembe Mutombo (No. 4 to Denver)

1992—Jim Jackson (No. 4 to New Jersey) and Clarence
Witherspoon (No. 9)

1993—Webber (No. 1 to Orlando), Bradley (No. 2) and Rodney Rogers (No. 9 to Denver)

1994—Donyell Marshall (No. 4 to Golden State), Sharone
Wright (No. 6) and Eric Montross (No. 9 to Boston)

1995—Joe Smith (No. 1 to Golden State) and Jerry Stackhouse (No. 3)

1996—Iverson(No. 1)

1997—Keith Van Horn (No. 2) and Tim Thomas (No. 7 to New
Jersey)

1998—Robert Traylor (No. 6 to Dallas) and Larry Hughes
(No. 8)

1999—Brand (No. 1 to Chicago) and Andre Miller (No. 8 to Cleveland)

So the Sixers certainly have had chances to rebuild with
the draft, only it really hasn’t worked out that way. Even the roster for the
2001 run to the Finals was constructed with trades and free-agent moves.
Considering that as recently as 1995 to 1997 that the team had a top three pick
each year and kept one player longer than two seasons explains all one needs to
know about the Sixers in the draft.

Tank it? No t'anks.


[1] My research came up small. Why did the
Sixers draft Mike Bantom No. 4, have the pick disallowed and then watch
Banton go to Phoenix at No. 8?

Halladay the latest to join greatest era in Philly sports history

Presser Sometimes it’s easy to get excited about the littlest things. Maybe it’s a new episode of a TV show, or a favorite meal. Or it could be a small gift or a short trip to a favorite place.

You know what they say—sometimes it’s the small things that matter the most.

So when the team you’ve written about for the past 10 years gets the game’s best pitcher who just so happened to be the most-coveted player on the trade/free-agent market, it should be pretty exciting…

Right?

Yawn.

Sitting there and listening as Roy Halladay was being introduced to us media types during Wednesday’s press conference in Citizens Bank Park, a different feel pervaded. Usually, during such settings it’s not very difficult to get swept up in the emotion. After all, teams usually trot in family members, agents, front-office types and other hangers-on. In rare cases, like Wednesday’s Halladay presser for example, the national cable TV outlets turned out to aim cameras at the proceedings.

But when a team introduces its third former Cy Young Award winner since July after trading one away, there’s a tendency to become a little used to big events like introductory press conferences. Think about it—this year the Phillies have added Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. That’s five Cy Young Awards right there.

At the same time, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Charlie Manuel, Jayson Werth and Ruben Amaro Jr. all got new contracts since the Phillies won the World Series. Not to mention, the team signed Placido Polanco, Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez and, of course, had that little parade down Broad Street.

In other words, you can see why it was easy not to get too worked up over Halladay’s arrival. That’s doubly the case considering the Flyers fired a coach and the Sixers welcomed back Allen Iverson within the past two weeks. Add in the facts that the deal for Halladay took three days to come together after Amaro spent the week in Indianapolis denying involvement of anything and it’s easy to get a little jaded.

Wait… is Ruben denying he was even in Indianapolis now?

Of course with success comes boredom. In fact, a wise man once told me that championships were boring and bad for business. Perhaps he is correct, because while people are excited about the recent developments with the Phillies, they also are expected now. It’s not quite complacency, but during the past decade every Philadelphia team has been in the mix to acquire the top players on the market. Sure, we’re still getting used to all of this largesse and therefore go a little wild for guys like Halladay, but really…

Been there, done that.

That brings us to the grand point—this is the greatest time ever to be a Philadelphia sports fan. Ever. Since 2001, every team but the Flyers have been to the championship round of the playoffs and every team has made gigantic, stop-the-sports-world acquisitions.

Just look at the list of names:

Roy Halladay
Pedro
Cliff Lee
Jim Thome
Larry Bowa
Jeremy Roenick
Chris Pronger
Peter Forsberg
Chris Webber
Elton Brand
Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo
Terrell Owens
Asante Samuel
Jevon Kearse
Michael Vick

If the team wants them, they are pretty darned good at getting them.

Certainly that wasn’t always the case. A friend’s dad often tells the story about how he and his friends were amazed that a Philadelphia team could get a player like Julius Erving, and I remember watching on TV when Pete Rose signed his four-year, $3.2 million deal with the Phillies. The fact that the Pete Rose signing was on live TV proves how big it was because, a.) there weren’t a whole lot of channels on the dial back then. Just 12 and none of them offered all sports programming. Cable? What?

And, b.) I didn’t even live in the Philadelphia region when Rose signed. Hell, I didn’t even live in Pennsylvania.

Oh, there were other big deals, too. Like when the Sixers traded Caldwell Jones to get Moses Malone, for instance. But they were few and far between. For every Moses, there was always a Lance Parrish lurking at the podium ready to take questions about how he will deliver the championship.

Thome_cryAs far as those big moves go, the mid-season trade for Dikembe Mutombo was the first major move for us at the CSNPhilly.com site. We had three people on the staff back then and the trade came down on a snowy February afternoon that kept us cooped up in our little corner of the second floor in the Wachovia Center. Better yet for the Sixers, the deal for Mutombo was one of the few that worked out as designed. Mutombo gave the team the defense and presence in the middle it lacked and made it to the NBA Finals.

With Shaq and Kobe in mid dynasty, a trip to the finals for a team like the Sixers was as good as winning it all.

Jim Thome’s arrival was bigger yet. Not only was Thome the biggest name on the free-agent market, but also he was a symbol that there were big changes coming. Of course the unforgettable moment of Thome’s first visit to Philly was when he popped out of his limo to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the union guys from I.B.E.W. who held an impromptu rally outside the ballpark to try and sway the slugger to sign with the Phillies.

Moreover, Thome’s introductory press conference was memorable because the big fella was reduced to tears when talking about the switch from the Indians. It was a scene that hadn’t been repeated in these parts until Allen Iverson got a bit weepy when talking about his return to Philadelphia.

Oh yes, Philadelphia will make a guy cry.

Or maybe even do a bunch of sit-ups in the front yard.

Maybe in a different era, the acquisition of Roy Halladay would be a bigger deal. Maybe when the contract plays itself out—potentially five years and $100 million—we’ll view it differently. Until then he’s just another big name in a veritable cavalcade of superstars that seem to wind up in our town.