I was a big supporter of the Get Jim O’Brien Out Of Boston Bandwagon. I stand by my belief that Jim served a purpose in transitioning us from the Rick Pitino years and got a lot out of the guys that he had. I also stand by my belief that he was not the man to take us to a championship. Now that he’s in Philly, I can confidently say that he’s found himself a nice home and he’ll do just fine. I’m very happy for the guy and I have a great deal of respect for him. On the other hand, he’s still not going to win a championship.
Here is why he’s a great fit for Philadelphia. They are not unlike the Celtics team he took to the Eastern Conference Finals a few years back. Jim is a defense first guy and will make that a priority. AI will be happy to see O’Brien because he will have absolute free reign on offense, much like Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker did. The Sixers employ some solid role players in Kenny Thomas, Greg Buckner, and Eric Snow (similar to Eric Williams, Walter McCarty, and Tony Battie). Jim should be able to get those role players to play their roles and buy into a flawed, but essentially effective defensive system of traps and overplays. Samuel Dalembert is a big man with great mobility, so he should be able to handle the sliding, doubling, lunging post defense that O’Brien demands from his big men. With all that said, barring a miracle, the Sixers will not win a Championship. Like the O’Brien Celtics, they’ll be good enough to be in the playoffs every year, and that’s about it. Who knows, in a weak East, they might even slip into the Finals for a chance to get swept by the Western Champs.
First of all, they are pretty hog tied with the cap. I am ruling out the possibility of AI being traded on the grounds of finances and trade value. No player they trade AI for will be the kind of draw that AI is on a nightly basis (and make no mistake, that is the driving motivation of any and every move). They also would be hard pressed to get equal value for AI at this point. He is what he is and the league knows all about him. Would you give up an all star or numerous potential all stars to take on a guy that demands 30 shots a night and scoffs at practice? I’m not saying he wouldn’t be welcome on many teams, I’m just saying that there is no way you could get equal value for him.
The Sixers have no cap flexibility thanks to several thick contracts to players like Todd MacCulloch, Derrick Coleman, and Marc Jackson. There is some hope that some cap-strapped team might take Glen Robinson’s expiring contract sometime next year, but for what in return?
At first glance, you could say that good defense, plus AI, plus some good role players could be enough for a Championship. The fatal flaws are just under the surface though. His defense takes away any chance at rebounding which in turn takes away any easy baskets in transition. No flow on offense and overdependence on stars to create their own shots allows other team’s defense to key on individuals (AI) and disrupt any flow they have. Same problems he had in Boston will creep up again in Philly.
So essentially I give O’Brien a lot of credit for being what he is and I think he’ll do a fine job righting the ship in Philadelphia. However, there’s little doubt in my mind that the Celtics are better off finding a new coach this offseason.