Enough of the Tanking. Philadelphia 76ers Need to Aggressively Pursue Free Agents

06/17/2015 07:08 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016

The NBA Championship Series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors was a must-watch event for pro basketball fans. LeBron James versus Stephen Curry.

Unfortunately, Philadelphia 76ers fans like me were once again on the outside looking in and had to watch other teams play for the title.

The Sixers have won a total of 37 games out of 164 during the last two seasons. Fans like me are tired of our winters of discontent.

It seems like a millennium ago when the Sixers won their last NBA championship. I was lucky enough to have been there in 1983.

Right after graduating from college that year, I took a month-long car trip out west with a couple of friends. We visited Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and other great sites, but the most memorable part of our trip took place in Los Angeles. By chance, we were in Los Angeles the night the Sixers played the Lakers in Game 4 of the NBA finals.

The Lakers were down 3-0, and most of their bandwagon fans had given up. We were amazed to get tickets for the game at face value for $25 from a ticket broker who advertised in an ad in the Los Angeles Times. There we were -- at the Forum, with Jack Nicholson and all the other Hollywood elites and a surprisingly large number of Sixers fans -- watching the Sixers win it all.

After the game, we joined about 20 Sixers fans on the court to wave brooms and chant "Sweep!" We called several of our Philadelphia friends and relatives by collect (to their parents' dismay) on a pay phone to tell people that we were there.

Things seem bleak right now as a Sixers fan, especially in light of recent reports that center Joel Embiid might miss a substantial part of next season because his foot injury is healing slowly.

It can only get better.

Nerlens Noel had a great rookie season. Embiid, if he ever gets healthy, could be a force. The addition of D'Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns in the NBA draft in June would help. So would the addition of Dario Saric.

The last two years, Philadelphia sports fans have wrestled with the ethical debate over whether tanking in professional sports is appropriate. Obviously, the players aren't tanking; they're giving 100 percent effort. It's personnel decisions that lead people to believe that management wants the team to lose in order to improve.

It seems as though fans are split. Some have had enough with two straight years of management purposely putting together bad teams in order to get high draft picks. Other fans support the move, arguing that, in the NBA, in order to get really good, you have to be really bad first. They say that if you have a mediocre team, you're likely to stay mediocre. After the Sixers got the third pick in this year's lottery and failed to pick up lottery picks from the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, fans were once again split as to whether tanking was worth it.

In 2013, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said during a press conference, "As an American I wouldn't like to think that an American team would ever want to lose or create situations where you would want to lose. I can't even fathom. I can't go there. I can't believe that that would happen. Maybe I'm naive and I'm going to go read a fairy tale after this."

Like most Sixers fans, I've had enough with the tanking. They need to go out and start spending their ample salary cap money on free agents, such as Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, DeMarre Carroll, or guards Brandon Knight or Reggie Jackson, if Russell goes to the Lakers in the draft. At least make an effort to get a quality player via free agency. It's also a good sign that published reports indicate that the Sixers are trying to buy out Saric's Turkish League contract a year early. This would show that they are serious about winning this upcoming season and could help influence a free agent to choose to come to the Sixers.

Being in Los Angeles in 1983 was great, but for the next championship, I want to be in Philadelphia. I want to be at the parade on Broad Street. And this time, I won't have to feel guilty about making collect calls on a pay phone.

NOTE: This is an updated version of an Op-Ed that Larry Atkins wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer