by Lang Whitaker

One of the sad truths about the NBA is that money runs everything. Most NBA franchises lose money from year to year, which is fine for a billionaire owner because he counts it as a write-off and goes on about spending his billions of dollars.

I was watching the Hawks/Sixers game last night, and Hawks play-by-play man Bob Rathbun made mention of the sparse crowd in attendance. (And you know a crowd has to be small for the Hawks announcers to notice it.) The Hawks didn’t play particularly well last night, but they handled Philly easily, which made me realize just how bad the Sixers are. They aren’t the worst team in the NBA — that honor goes to the L-Wolves — but they are the worst team in the East.

Seeing that dwindling crowd in Philly last night, I realized that not going to games was probably the best way Sixers fans could show their displeasure with the team. The only way Comcast, the company that owns the Sixers, will listen to what the fans have to say is if the Sixers stop making money.

I don’t know if the Sixers are making money, but they sure are spending it. The Sixers have the 8th highest payroll in the NBA this season, over $71 million. This includes the combined $26 million being paid to Chris Webber and Aaron McKie, neither of whom have anything to do with the Sixers anymore. It’s all well and good to spend a lot of money on your franchise, but it’s not so well or good when your team has been to the Playoffs once in the last four seasons and over that same time span has amassed a 149-179 record.

To me, the worst thing about the situation in Philly is that the Sixers don’t seem to have much hope. Andre Miller is still as crafty as ever, but he turns 32 years old(!) in February. And Andre Iguodala is about to become a free agent but he still can’t create his own shot. Also, Sam Dalembert (and his 10 and 8 per game) is on the books for four more years at a total of nearly $43 million. And I found myself actually sad last night watching Louis Williams play, because the Sixers have already started breaking the fun from his game — on one possession he came flying down the court and then set up the offense, making a lazy pass and a rote cut through the lane, and you could just see the sadness in his body language.

Then, while watching the end of the Magic/Warriors game, I was reminded that we’re not supposed to be worried about the Sixers, because before the season, team president and GM Billy King announced that he has a 3-year rebuilding plan. This is the same guy who basically turned Allen Iverson into a 32-year-old point guard — Sixers fans were supposed to trust his long-term thinking?

So, I went to bed last night planning on writing something about the Sixers today, to urge the fans to make a stand against failure and mediocrity.

But Ed Snider and Comcast beat me to it.

The Sixers canned Billy King this morning. I knew it when I woke because I could hear Stephen A. Smith’s hoots of joy from miles away. The replacement GM will be former Nets GM Ed Stefanski, also known as The Travelin’ Man on the famed Sussman Sez blog. I don’t know Stefanski, but if his previous work with the Nets is any indication, expect for him to get one or two superstar-caliber players, and then refuse to add a power forward to the line-up, keeping the team from ever really being a contender.

• And if you were Stefanski and you were looking to make a splash and singlehandedly return the Sixers to prominence in the East, who is the one superstar available with Philly ties? Kobe! Just saying…

• Speaking of the Magic, they are a really good team, but if they somehow make the Finals they’ll get drilled by the Spurs. (Yes, the Spurs are returning to the Finals.) Watching the Magic, I was reminded that great teams need three great players, particularly in the halfcourt offense, because when things go wrong and your first option is taken away and then your second option gets doubled, the third guy is the one who often ends up making something happen. Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu are the third options right now, and while Turkoglu is playing really well this season — averaging career highs across the board, including minutes — if it came down to it, I don’t think you want your season in the hands of Hedo Turkoglu.

• Condolences to Stephon Marbury, who lost his father, Don, Sunday night. Peter Vecsey takes the Knicks to task today for not telling Stephon earlier that his father had been taken to the hospital. The Viper is adamant that the Knicks should have told Stephon sooner that his Dad was having chest pains, and I understand where The Viper is coming from. The Knicks, however, have said that a member of the Marbury family asked them not to tell Stephon until the game was over. If that’s true, I can kind of understand where the Marbury’s were coming from, because despite the boos and the fighting with Isiah, being on that court was probably the last peace Stephon was going to find for a while.

• This is really good story, if a little disturbing. I like that the kid is BFF with Eddy Curry.

• I offer this link up only as a cultural tidbit for my readers. On the record, I think the content of said video clip is neither funny nor redemptive whatsoever. Off the record, I really can’t wait to see it.

• Yet again, Brad Miller gives us the quote of the day, today regarding rookie Kings center Spencer Hawes: “He’s (become) pretty good at bag carrying; finally got that down. But he’s a damn Republican, full-fledged. That’s part of what we’re trying to ease him on, and to break him of his strong-headed ways and spreading the wise words of a 19-year-old. I’ve lived almost twice as long as him, but what do I know? He does argue, though. I’ll give him that. I can get him in an argument every five minutes.”

• Finally, Michael Jordan is working on a new Hanes commercial, but he won’t divulge his co-star. Let’s see…Matthew Perry, Kevin Bacon, Cuba Gooding…which A-listers are left? According to MJ, it depends on “if I know the guy…if he happens to be a friend…and if we have chemistry.”

I’ve got it! Ahmad!