A while back I had the opportunity to interview Sixers President and General Manager Ed Stefanski. Recently Michael Preston of the Sixers PR staff reached out to me and gave the opportunity to be on a conference call with Ed, which I gladly accepted. I was in the middle of a vacation, and was actually scheduled to drive back that day, but when the opportunity to interview the guy running the Sixers comes up, you fit it into your schedule.
The story has been very well covered by Depressed Fan, SixerSoul, TrueHoop, Passion and Pride, Recliner GM, and The 700 Level, so I won’t spend too much time on the details (even sixers.com put a piece up on it). I mainly was involved to get some quotes for a piece I’ll be doing for RealGM, and I’ll post some of my highlights, as well as the transcript which you can check out by clicking the read more link.
My main point of the post was to say how well the Sixers are doing. No, I’m not talking in terms of how good of an offseason they’re having, which to this point has been a success in every facet. That’s a given. But the media relations for the Sixers, of which Ed is certainly doing his fair share, is tremendous.
This is a town where you have Andy Reid refusing to give any insight to card carrying members of the media, much less holding a 30 minute conference call with wanna-be’s, bloggers and straight up fans. Where the Phillies regard the media as being constantly against them, and even have their manager challenging a member of the media to a fight (not that I necessarily disagree with Charlie’s desire to punch Howard Eskin). For the vast majority of the time, it seems the aggravation from front office personal is a detraction.
With the Sixers and Ed Stefanski, it’s the complete opposite.
Not once during the call did either Ed Stefanski or Michael Preston act like they were talking to the junior varsity team. They were both open throughout. Very few organizations give such guys the time of day.
I don’t necessarily expect the front office to be fully honest, in fact some times I think it behooves them to not be. So when Andy Reid purposefully gives the media nothing, it doesn’t bother me. Being open and forthright to the media (or, in this case, Joe Citizen) isn’t going to win the Sixers any games, and it doesn’t cover up for any mistakes made.
It doesn’t alter the destination, which ultimately is what we’re in it for. But it does make the ride a heck of a lot more fun and enjoyable. And, for that, I thank Ed Stefanski and the Sixers PR staff.
As for what I found most interesting:
- Ed thinks Louis Williams is a “hell of a basketball player”. Pretty strong endoresement. Here’s to hoping Ed’s right.
- When describing Thaddeus Young and his work this offseason: “His handle has gotten better, we’ll only know when the season starts if it’s gotten good enough to play the bulk of the minutes at the 3.”
- “We wouldn’t have gone that route [signing Theo Ratliff] if Jason Smith [had not gotten hurt].”
- On Marreese Speights summer league performance: “He did everything we asked of him, but it’s only summer league. But, on the flip side, if he had sucked in the summer league, we all would have been upset, and all of the guys on this call with me would have said “oh my god”…If the kid has it and wants it, the skills are there, so as I said we’re happy he had a good summer as opposed to not having a good summer.”
- On the Andre Miller contract negotiation: “He does not have any representation right now, so we’re in limbo in that respect. So once he gets representation we’ll sit down and see where their side is”.
- On Andre Miller’s age: “That’s all the things you take into consideration [his age, and whether he'll fit in when the team peaks]. Where Andre is in his career, what type of team we have. They’re all the things that once we discuss, Andre, myself and his agent, they’re all the things you have to discuss and see where his head is. There’s no doubt all those things come into play. ”
- On the last question of the press conference, he stated there are no moves currently in the works, and expects to have the team he has right now.
- Ended the conference with: “Guys, the one thing I just want to say it, be very fortunate that it worked. Because you never know, when you put a plan together, whether it’s going to be executed. Luck is involved in all of this, and it came out pretty good.”
And, of course, the humorous part of the interview:
Blogger: Ed it’s Brian from Depressed Fan.
Ed: Depressed who, from what?
Blogger: Depressed Fan.
Ed: C’mon! Get a little more excited.
Blogger: It’s mostly
the Yankees these days.
Click “Read More” for a full transcript of the interview.
Welcome guys, it’s great to talk to everyone. Quick summary, wow, since I got here, what have I been here, a little over nine months? I don’t know exactly, but it’s been a very interesting, very rewarding. What Mo Cheeks and the team did last year was terrific to watch. We’ll get into questions and answers shortly. As I’ve said since I got here, and when we made the trade with Kyle, that we were just hoping that an opportunity would come in the summer time in free agency. We couldn’t put a name on it, and we did a lot of homework on different people and different plans, but we didn’t know which that guy would be, and then when Elton decided to opt out, that was the opportunity and a fortune to get him. We’ve said all along that we were going to sign our own free agents, which we feel very comfortable with. Young people who are going to be our nucleus for years to come, who are very good basketball players. We got residual effect from the good play we had this year, and Elton Brand, by getting I feel free agents that normally wouldn’t come to us, but the chance that of being on a team that they think is going to be pretty good, they’ve come to us. So, it’s all good right now, and as I’ve said numerous times guys, we look good on paper, but paper doesn’t play, so we’ll see what happens. Go ahead and open up for any questions.
Mike: Guys, please just introduce yourselves before your questions, it would be appreciated, thank you.
Ed: Yeah, and I want your handle too when you give your name laughs].
Blogger: Ed this is Henry Abbott from truehoop, how are you?
Ed: I’m doing great.
Blogger: A big part of the story from last year was Thaddeus Young and some of the younger players getting minutes after you came aboard and that led to some winning. But, he was playing a lot of 4, and now it looks like he probably won’t be, and I wondered how you envisioned the frontcourt minutes shaking out, and if there’s a way to get quality minutes for Thaddeus.
Ed: Yeah, that’s going to be something something I think is probably going to shake out, well it’s definitely going to shake out in preseason, and during the season. Obviously, Elton Brand is our starting 4. And, Mo would be able to answer this as how he’s projecting Thaddeus at the 3, which I’m sure he is right now. Thaddeus has been working extremely hard all summer on his handle. I’ve seen him a few of times, out in Vegas in the summer league and out in vegas at Tim Grgurich’s camp. His handle has gotten better, we’ll only know when the season starts if it’s gotten good enough to play the bulk of the minutes at the 3. But there’s no question his handles gotten better, but then there’s a lot of moves, you can then play Thaddeus at the 4 at times when Elton is getting a break, and you know in this league the way it is now Elton can play some 5.
Blogger: Hey Ed, this is Jon Burkett from Passion and Pride, how are you?
Ed: I’m doing great.
Blogger: Congratulations on the great offseason I know we’re excited here in Philly. My question for you is kinda talk about the role of Andre Iguodala this year going from the #1 option to #2, and maybe playing some more 2 guard to accomodate Young’s development.
Ed: Yeah, right now that would be, if you look at a depth chart, probably you put Andre Iguodala as the starting 2, Andre is another one, just like Thaddeus, we’re blessed with this kids who love to play, and that’s not always the case on guys in the league, but these guys love to play, they work hard at it. So he’s been working on, as he said in the press conference, on coming off screens on jump shots, getting his shot off quicker. He’s an extremely hard worker, you almost have to calm down at times, he’s ready for the season to start now, but we have a lot of guys that I would just term basketball players. You know, in ancient basketball when I played, you always had a 1 and a 2 and a 3 and all that stuff. Swing men play 2 and 3 now. Lou Williams, I’m not going to sit here and tell you he’s a stone cold 1 or he’s a stone cold 2, but I think Lou Williams is a hell of a basketball player. I really like way the kid plays, and I think that’s what you have with our team. You have good basketball players and Mo has the versatility to use them in the different spots that he wants to.
Blogger: Ed it’s Brian from Depressed Fan.
Ed: Depressed who, from what?
Blogger: Depressed Fan.
Ed: C’mon! Get a little more excited.
Blogger: It’s mostly the Yankees these days.
Blogger: My question is last year the team really turned it around when they went uptempo and started using young legs on both sides of the floor. Now, with Elton Brand, is that going to change, or is the team going to stay uptempo and just have a better option to fall back on to the half court?
Ed: I see it both ways. We’re not planning on slowing it down, we want to keep pushing the pace and we have some players that can do that. On any fast break you need a trailer, and Sam [Dalembert] runs the floor extremely well, so if Elton is the trailer, that’s not the worst thing in the world, that if the defense is back but they’re not waiting on Elton, Elton is a very good shooter from the Elbow, he can make shots, so we don’t plan on going to the half court, but what he does give us, as we all know, is that when we do have to play half court basketball he’s a big part of it down low. I see him making Sammy much better on the offensive end because of him [Elton] commanding double teams. That goes for all our players. And I see Sammy helping Elton on the defensive end with his length and shotblocking ability.
Ed: You’re welcome.
Blogger: Ed this is Danny from the Recliner GM, how are you doing?
Ed: I’m doing great.
Blogger: You’ve put in a lot of work this summer, and I think we all appreciate it. This team, as currently constructed, do you think they’re a championship contender or do you think they’re maybe still a piece or two away?
Ed: Noone knows that answer. I’ve always been the person, and maybe it’s kinda silly, but whoever you throw out on the court you feel that you have a chance and you have to play hard, and when you don’t have all the pieces it’s hard. This is a pretty good team on paper, again, how do we gel, how does everybody come together. We brought in a huge piece in Elton Brand, and I think we made our bench stronger than it was last year, but do they gel with everybody? They’re going to be the questions. Is it a championship contender? You know, only time will tell. We kept saying that we needed to move in the right direction, and we’ve been making small steps in that direction, and then we made a much larger step when we got Elton Brand, so you know our expectations are obviously higher than they were when I got here and even going into the free agency period because we didn’t know Elton Brand was going to opt out.
Blogger: Thank you.
Ed: You’re welcome.
Blogger: Ed this is Andrew with the 700 level. I was just wondering, you had Josh Smith in for a visit, and everything seemed really positive, and you never offered him a contract. What made you decide that he wasn’t the right guy?
Ed: Well, we really liked Josh, we knew that he was a restrictive free agent, but at least he was a free agent, again not knowing what Elton Brand was going to do. So when that came up we were working towards both guys. With the restricted free agent situation they can match, and it looked like whatever deal we would put on the table for Josh it would have been matched with Atlanta, so we were fortunate in that case. But we really highly regarded Josh Smith, and he was a guy that we were targeting not knowing what unrestricted free agents would be out there.
Blogger: Ed, this is Brian from Depressed Fan, I actually have a follow up to that question. Do you think the deal Josh Smith wound up getting was a bargain?
Ed: Is a bargain? Yeah, well, I don’t know if anything is a bargain in this league, but I think Atlanta is not unhappy that it came down to a situation where they had to match. I think that they’re very happy that that’s how it came down.
Blogger: Ed this is Joe Bolerus from Yahoo Sports. I was wondering about the Rodney Carney deal, which sort of allowed you guys to make the full blown offer to Elton Brand. I was wondering if you could detail how that thing came about? Did your front office go mining for trade exceptions? Did Minnesota get ahold of you? How did that whole thing shake out?
Ed: Well, we knew we needed to secure more cap space in order to get Elton. We were in the sweepstakes for him, but we needed to secure some more room. With Calvin Booth, the other teams like the idea that someone’s in the last year of their contract. With Rodney too, he was a basketball player that has upside, and hopefully he fulfills it, that’s why Minnesota liked him, plus he’s in the last year of his contract if Minnesota deems that’s what they want to do. And also, when we secured that first round pick from Utah, that sweetened the pot to make it happen. But we were talking to numerous teams around the league, Tony DiLeo and I, that we were going to try to secure more cap space. But one thing we had to sweeten the pot, as I said, was that Utah pick. People liked that idea of getting the first round pick.
Blogger: This is Matt from the 700 level. I was wondering what you would say the teams expectations for Theo Ratliff are this year. He was a fan favorite when he was here before, obviously that was years ago and things are a little different now, I wanted to get your take on that.
Ed: Well, you know, where we were in free agency to have a Theo still around, we were happy to add [him]. We wouldn’t have gone that route if Jason Smith, it’s a shame he got hurt, it kills me that he got hurt, from his personal standpoint as well as the team. Had he not gotten hurt we would not have been going in that direction, but when he did get hurt, we were able to turn around and get a player like Theo who, you know, will play limited minutes for us, but he’s a nice backup, a veteran who knows what he’s doing defensively. He can still block a shot, as he showed in the Detroit series against us, so hopefully he can play that role, he knows his role, the coach has told him. He’s an interesting character. He’s very happy. He said to me the other day when he was in to sign his contract, he said he loves Philadelphia and he loves the fans because the fans make him play hard and they’re always there for him, he knows that if he puts effort in that the Philadelphia fans will like him. He’s figured the Philadelphia fans out. The Philadlephia fans are all about effort. If you give the effort, and maybe just come up short, they’re going to forgive you. It’s when you don’t give the effort is when the fans get on you. He’s looking forward to coming back and playing in Philadelphia.
Blogger: Hey Ed, SixerSoul, how are you doing?
Ed: Doing great.
Blogger: First of all congrats on the offseason. You made it look too easy it seems like.
Ed: No no no [laughs].
Blogger: I want to know your thoughts on Marreese Speights. I liked what I saw in the summer league. There have been a lot of comparisons to Amare, even though that’s unfair right now.
Ed: To Amare Stoudemire?
Blogger: How many minutes do you think he’s going to get.
Ed: I don’t know what minutes, that’s going to be Mo’s decision obviously. I would have thought he would have gotten less of a chance before Jason got hurt. When people get hurt it’s terrible, but it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up. This is a chance for Marreese Speights to have a chance to play some in his rookie year. I know it’s only summer league, so take this with a grain of salt. He was really good, he averaged close to 20 and 10, he did everything we asked of him, but it’s only summer league. But, on the flip side, if he had sucked in the summer league, we all would have been upset, and all of the guys on this call with me would have said “oh my god”. So, he did good in the summer league, what does that mean? I don’t know. But we got what we thought we were getting. We had a lot of rumors that the kid wouldn’t play hard and all this, and we had a lot of chats with a lot of people throughout the country that touched this kid, we had a lot of heart to heart talks with the kid, and we didn’t see it on film where he didn’t run the floor because we thought that was one of his attributes. He’s athletic, he’s skilled. It’s up to him. We can give him all the help he needs with the coaching staff, they’ll be right there with him. Our coaching staff does a great job. It’s up to the kid. If the kid has it and wants it, the skills are there, so as I said we’re happy he had a good summer as opposed to not having a good summer.
Blogger: This is Danny again from the Recliner GM. Earlier I read that you were looking maybe to talk to Andre Miller about potentially getting another extension done with him. Is that still part of the plan? And how long do you think he’ll be a major contributor at the point guard spot for us?
Ed: Well, we don’t know anything because Andre likes to take the summers off, when I saw off, literally off. He’s texted me a couple of times real happy with the moves we’re making, so I know he’s watching and he’s happy with that. He does not have any representation right now, so we’re in limbo in that respect. So once he gets representation we’ll sit down and see where their side is, but you know, he had one heck of a year for us last year, he’s no doubt a good ballplayer, and we have to see where it goes. Again, until he gets representation, I have no clue what’s happening.
Blogger: Ed, this is Henry from TrueHoop. He’s on a little bit of a different schedule than your younger players who have been integral. When’s your window of when you see your team peaking. It seems with Andre playing well…
Ed: What do you mean he’s on a different schedule?
Blogger: Well, he’s just older. He’s going to be slowing down when…
Ed: Oh. No, you’re right. That’s all the things you take into consideration. Where Andre is in his career, what type of team we have. They’re all the things that once we discuss, Andre, myself and his agent, they’re all the things you have to discuss and see where his head is. There’s no doubt all those things come into play.
Blogger: Follow up to that follow up. If the best year of his career is in a contract year on a team with Elton Brand, and guards of his ilk, low on athleticism and iffy outside shooting, start to drop off essentially at the age that he’s at, going to be 33 and the end of next season. He had done this last year, and I know you don’t want to pigeon hole Lou Williams into something, but…
Ed: I think they’re all the things, I mean there’s nothing has to be done, we’re saying that we’re going to sit and just discuss things. Even if nothing happens, and if both sides don’t agree and he plays the year, we still can negotiate next year, we still have his rights. The way it’s setup, it’s not like we have to jump in now.
Blogger: This is Derek from RealGM. With Josh Childress signing overseas, it seems to have opened up a possibility of prominent American players signing over there. Is that something that’s kind of taken you by surprise, or is that something that was planned for going into the offseason?
Ed: I’m a little surprised at the amount of money, I’m not surprised with the Euro and a lot of countries denominations are against the weak dollar, and that plays a huge role in this whole thing. But, that was a contender, and not typically in Josh’s case but with but maybe some cases with minimum salaries and maybe some Europeans that would have come over before for lower [salary] number. I think the one thing, and I know this, the NBA is the greatest basketball league in the world, and the best players, wherever they are, want to take a shot in the NBA. So, I still think you’ll see players still want to come and play against the best, so I think that’s what will happen going forward. But there always will be some players that will take a shot and go where it’s best for them and their future, financially.
Blogger: Passion and Pride here. With Childress, I know you guys talked to him and his camp before, did you get any inkling that he would take an option overseas.
Ed: We talked to his agents, I never talked to Josh personally. We talked to his agents and we were planning on bringing him in, but when the Elton thing went down, that didn’t work out and we didn’t bring him in. No, I had no inclination that he was going to Europe.
Blogger: This is SixerSoul. I gotta get this question in here. Everybody’s been criticizing him on all our blogs and everything, and he’s got a lot of criticism from fans. What are your thoughts on Willie, and what does the future hold in Philly for him?
Ed: Well, I think Willie will get an opportunity to play basketball, no doubt about it. As we talked in the beginning, we don’t know where the 3 position is going to be definitely. So, if Andre Iguodala Iguodala swings more to the 3, that gives Willie more opportunity to play at the 2. Right now, we’re not making any moves and Willie is a part of our team. He had some very good parts last year, and some parts he didn’t like himself. He got knicked up a little bit, and was not injury free last year. And that’s a huge thing on any basketball team, is to try to stay injury free, and already we had a major setback with Jason Smith. That’s one thing that you concern yourself all the time, we just hope we stay healthy. Willie is a part of the team, and right now we have no anything on any player making any moves but the team we have right now.
Mike: We all appreciate you guys taking the time today to join this call with us. Ed, thank you very much for your time as well, and I will definitely be in touch with you guys throughout the course of the season.
Ed: Guys, the one thing I just want to say it, be very fortunate that it worked. Because you never know, when you put a plan together, whether it’s going to be executed. Luck is involved in all of this, and it came out pretty good.
As Michael said, thanks for coming on, and we’ll continue to do this.1 comment