- Henry Abbott, TrueHoop, NBA
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The athletic and exciting 6-6 forward/guard has improved his scoring average in each of his first four seasons, and promises to be a mainstay on a Sixers team that recently signed former Clippers big man Elton Brand to an estimated $82 million free-agent contract.
Point guard Andre Miller, center Samuel Dalembert, and promising bench players like Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams make the Sixers an emergent force in the East. The young team managed to extend the Detroit Pistons to six games in the opening round of this year's playoffs -- and that was even before it added one of the NBA's best post scorers in Brand. Now the Sixers will be a popular pick to join the league's elite for many years to come.
If the Sixers had not been able to sign Iguodala, the 24-year-old could have played this season for them after signing a qualifying offer, which would have made him an unrestricted free agent next summer. In that scenario, the Sixers could have lost their most exciting young star without any compensation.
Iguodala and the team had an opportunity to work out a contract extension last summer but could not come to an agreement. Talks this offseason moved slowly until the last 24 hours, when, sources say, the team significantly increased its offer.
Although the basic terms of the deal have been agreed to, the new contract has yet to be finalized and signed.
76ers president and general manager Ed Stefanski took over a franchise on the wane last December, replacing the fired Billy King. The franchise had been the talk of the NBA as recently as 2001, when Allen Iverson and Larry Brown took the organization on a thrill ride to the NBA Finals, where the Sixers briefly held a lead in the series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, upon Stefanski's arrival, Iverson had long since been traded to Denver, and the remaining pieces in Philadelphia were unproven. Stefanski encouraged coach Maurice Cheeks to play some of the young bench players King had drafted, in part to help Stefanski assess their value as he made long-term plans. To many people's surprise, the young players played impressively and the team began to win, managing to atone for a 5-12 start with a 40-42 record and the seventh seed in the East.
Against the Pistons in the first round, the team recaptured some of the optimism that had been missing for the past several years. Iguodala did not distinguish himself in the series, shooting just 33 percent from the field while averaging more than four turnovers per game behind the defensive pressure of Detroit's Tayshaun Prince. Nevertheless, his negotiating power with the team had increased thanks to the team's strong finish in the regular season, and then the signing of Brand.
The long-term commitment to Brand put pressure on the organization to win sooner rather than later -- or risk wasting a massive investment -- and coming to terms with Iguodala became almost an essential part of the Sixers' message to sponsors, season-ticket holders and fans that the team was rejuvenated.
Iguodala had started the summer as one of many promising NBA free agents, but had seen nearly all of the big names, including Josh Smith, Emeka Okafor, Luol Deng, Andris Biedrins, Baron Davis, Brand and Josh Childress, agree to lucrative deals.
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations say that over the past 24 hours, the Sixers became convinced that their previous highest offer, believed to be slightly less than $70 million, would result in Iguodala signing a qualifying offer and playing one season in Philadelphia before testing the open market next summer.
In short order, the team emerged with a much higher offer, to which Iguodala quickly agreed.
Many of the details of the contract are still to be worked out, sources say, including incentive clauses that could increase the value of the deal beyond a base compensation of $80 million.
Henry Abbott writes the TrueHoop blog for ESPN.com.
7hMichael C. Wright