Tougest task lies ahead for Sixers owners

Now comes the tough part for the Sixers and their impressive owners. After the ouster of their spirited (but leaderless team), the new guys have to decide whether what we watched was the birth of a contender or a one-year phenomenon.

If you can’t stand the suspense, here’s the answer: The Sixers were one-hit wonders. As presently constructed, they are no more likely to win a championship than they were last year, or the year before that. What we just witnessed was nothing more than a beautiful mirage.

The final game was a cry from the mountaintops to blow up a team that earned the respect of a surprised city. I know, I know. How can a bunch of New York investors come into Philadelphia, revive basketball in eight amazing months and then purge the roster that brought them their early success?

Well, they must. Andre Iguodala may have become a temporary hero in the Chicago playoff series — and occasionally against Boston, too — but he remains an enigma. One or two highlight-film dunks per game don’t make up for the dumb shots and idiotic turnovers that were a death knell in Game 7.

After all these years, Iguodala still can’t figure out how to make a big free throw (with one notable exception) or make a smart play. He has a million-dollar body perched on a 10-cent head. And yet, after his emergence in the national spotlight over the past month, he and his absurdly lucrative contract are tradable.

If the Sixers make that one move and unload Iguodala, they will be taking the next big step forward. They will be choosing the long-term success of the team over an ill-fated attempt to prolong the mirage of 2012.

The Sixers were handed a valuable lesson last weekend in Game 7. They saw what a team with talent and leadership does when confronted with failure. Paul Pierce fouled out with four minutes left and Boston holding a three-point lead, and Rajon Rondo calmly stepped forward and won the game.

Is there anyone on the current Sixers roster who could emulate Rondo’s heroics? Yes, Iguodala did it one time in Chicago, but he has failed on countless other occasions. Can Jrue Holiday do it, or Lou Williams, Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young? No. And that’s why the new owners need to put up a sign outside the Wells Fargo Center: Fire Sale. No Reasonable Offer Refused.

The Sixers proved this season that they could do more than any of us thought possible, but nowhere near enough on which to build a real future. For that, they will need a star, someone who can deliver more than a beautiful mirage.

Fleeting fame

Tears were forming in Allen Iverson’s eyes as he took one final bow last week.

The fallen superstar was brought back to inspire the Sixers, and he succeeded spectacularly in that assignment. Unfortunately, he also provided a poignant reminder of the fleeting nature of sports fame.

A decade ago, he was the floor leader, a nightly thrill show unlike any we have ever experienced.

Iverson fought back tears not because of what he had, but of what he lost. He is reportedly near bankruptcy, immersed in an ugly divorce, searching for one more chance. He has failed at several comebacks — including one here two years ago — but there is nowhere left to turn. All he knows is basketball, and his body won’t permit the magic anymore.

In the same week Iverson was enjoying his encore, Jeff Garcia resurfaced and openly campaigned for another shot on the Eagles. The fiery QB can’t shake the urge, or face the truth. Garcia has a Playboy Playmate wife and more money than he can spend, and all he wants is one more chance to play football.

Most of us once dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Well, maybe we’re better off sitting in the stands. Because even the best dreams usually end with tears.

Sign Hamels. Now.

When Roy Halladay left the game with a sore shoulder Sunday, two thoughts converged in the minds of every Phillies fan. First, we’re dead. And second, sign Cole Hamels. Please.

The injury that has the entire Delaware Valley bracing for the worst really puts into perspective this silly debate over whether Hamels is worth a seven-year contract. Yes, he’s worth it. The Phils can’t afford to lose the one young, pressure-tested, home-grown stud pitcher in their rotation.

No one wanted to read it when I wrote two months ago that the Phillies were not a playoff team because no one wanted to face the truth. But losing Halladay will have no bearing on the pennant race. That sad fate was sealed when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley missed Opening Day. This team isn’t good enough, with or without Halladay.

Allowing Hamels to leave as a free agent in a few months is not about 2012, it is about 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Whether the Phils can rebound from this lost year is a matter of debate, but the conversation ends the moment Hamels departs. The day he leaves (if he does) the Phillies truly are dead.

Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he’s still trying to decide the team’s priorities beyond this season. Well, it’s time for him to stop pondering the imponderable and make a bold and aggressive move.

Sign Cole Hamels, at any price. The future depends on it.

– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 to 10 a.m.

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