|Pressure rising for King, Cheeks in final season of their contracts|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 September 2007 14:58|
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Billy King bought a season ticket to the hottest team in town.|
Too bad it's not his own.
But when King watches the Philadelphia Phillies chase a postseason berth like he did this week, the 76ers team president sees a lot of the same qualities that he believes are in players like Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller:
An unselfish group that plays hard, plays together and tosses out outside expectations.
``We've got a team across the street that didn't worry about that and they've played hard all year,'' King said Friday. ``They put themselves in position where they're in a playoff position.''
If only King could talk playoff hopes about the Sixers.
When the Sixers open their first training camp since 1995 without Allen Iverson on the roster Tuesday at Durham, N.C., they know they'll be picked to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Not a bad prognostication considering the Sixers have missed the playoffs the last two seasons and three of the last four.
Most of the fans are apathetic and it showed with a half-empty Wachovia Center last year. But the ones who did show liked the hustle they saw out of the post-Iverson group. This year, effort and grit may be the only reason to cheer because the Sixers are lagging in talent.
``The greatest thing about this city is if you go out and give them effort, they'll cheer and get behind you,'' King said.
Handcuffed by salary cap constraints and without the talent to deal, King could only watch as Atlantic Division rivals like the Boston Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and the New York Knicks traded for Zach Randolph. The Sixers? They swung a deal for Reggie Evans.
``We're not going to sit here and promise anything to our fans, but one thing. That we will play hard and make you proud of how hard we play on the court,'' King said.
Sounds like Philadelphia can save on the ticker tape for another season.
King is committed to rebuilding through a nucleus that includes returning veterans Samuel Dalembert, Miller, Iguodala, Kyle Korver, and second-year forward Rodney Carney. King considers rebuilding the Sixers a three-step process and No. 1 was finally getting rid of Iverson.
The second step is the continued development of his nucleus and the final step will come next summer when some hefty contracts come off the books, giving the team needed cap relief to pursue free agents.
``Yeah, you want to have cap flexibility and all those things, but I'm not focusing on cap flexibility or next year's draft or next year's free agents,'' King said. ``I'm focusing on starting Monday and doing what we need to go out and try and win basketball games.''
King and third-year coach Maurice Cheeks can only hope they're around to offer their input in making those decisions. Both are in the final years of their contracts and the pressure to turn around the Sixers has only increased as the rest of the East has gotten better.
Cheeks and King insisted Friday that their approach to this season won't be affected by their lame-duck status.
``I really don't worry about that because I have a job to do,'' King said. ``You could have a multiyear contract and that doesn't mean anything in terms of job security. I just worry about the job I have to do. I know what our goal was, what our plan was to do and I think we're headed in that direction.''
Added Cheeks: ``I'm just going out there trying to do the best I can trying to get my team in a position to win games.''
They could both stick around for a few more years if they can somehow improve, or at least match, they way they played last season once they got rid of Iverson and former All-Star Chris Webber. The Sixers, who had just five wins on Dec. 20, went 30-29 after trading Iverson; 26-21 once Webber left for Detroit.
``The way we played, the way we finished was something that Maurice and I were pleased with,'' King said. ``We wanted to build on that in areas we thought we needed to add.''
King is working on one of those pieces right now, trying to sign leading scorer Andre Iguodala to a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline. If the Sixers fail to reach an extension by the end of next month, Iguodala will become a restricted free agent.
The Sixers also expect Dalembert, out with a stress fracture in his left foot, to participate in training camp. Dalembert will be limited, however.
``We don't need him to be ready Oct. 2. We want to be ready on Oct. 31,'' King said. ``But all indications are that he'll be ready and practice. We'll increase it as time goes on.''
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